Review: ‘Trainspotting’ at the Dukes


A rave, some nipples and a penis. In the first 5 minutes. Trainspotting is not your typical family friendly theatre outing in the slightest. The audience are not exempt from abuse, toilet water or having their faces plunged into the crotches of an exceptionally vocal Begbie. It is visceral and brash, which is just how it should be.

Performed by a small cast, often taking up multiple roles, the ‘In Your Face’ team do exactly what they say on the tin. The experience starts before you even step foot inside the round, with the announcements greeting you with “welcome to the rave”, it feels like the start of a rollercoaster. Walking into the theatre itself, you’re immersed into a club scene, complete with music from the original soundtrack and the cast bouncing around equipped with glow-sticks. I even had the misfortune of having my pint being nicked by Sick Boy…

The actual plot of the performance is quite removed from the Danny Boyle interpretation, and is more related to the original book written by Irvine Welsh. The classic scenes are still there however, with Renton stepping up to the bar for the infamous ‘morning after’ scene, complete with shitty sheets. This may come as a surprise for those who haven’t read the book or have just seen the 1996 motion picture but it also introduces a wealth of new material. We get to peer behind the curtain of Begbie’s bravado, into his domestic abuse. We also get to see the more heroin-dependent side of Sick Boy, who in the film can seemingly kick the habit at will.

One large omission however is Spud. The loveable dope from both films is replaced by the bright-eyed but doomed Tommy. Tommy’s character is perhaps the most tweaked here, with his aversion to drugs being largely absent. His sweet qualities are exhibited at one point however, as he defends a woman being punched up by her boyfriend, only for her to scream “That’s my man!” as he lands a few right hooks.

The downfall of this character is used to reflect the insecurities felt by main man Renton. Most memorably when Renton, now clean from heroin, visits Tommy, who is suffering badly after Renton gave him his first ‘hit’, following a breakup Tommy went through. Renton is maddeningly blaming himself for the state he finds Tommy in, and is eventually upstaged by the rest of the cast taking centre stage around a foetal Tommy. This is the crescendo of the play and creates a beautifully haunting insight into the mindset of a junkie on the edge.

All in all, this is something which we are very fortunate to have in Lancaster, albeit for a brief period. The talent on display is top notch, as is the commitment to the characters. It brings unseen material to the fore and isn’t afraid to get ‘In Your Face’, bringing a much-needed unease and vulnerability to the audience. It feels volatile, it feels real.

Trainspotting’s run at the Dukes concludes today (Saturday), with shows at 19:00 and 20:45.

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