Theatre: Up close and personal with Trainspotting crew

Trainspotting . The Vaults Waterloo. CREDIT Geraint Lewis
Trainspotting . The Vaults Waterloo. CREDIT Geraint Lewis

A stage version of Trainspotting will be played out at the Leadmill next week.

The production captures the passion and the controversy of Irvine Welsh novel and Danny Boyle’s seminal 1996 movie and repackages it into a no-holds barred immersive show.

Trainspotting . The Vaults Waterloo. CREDIT Geraint Lewis 

Sick Boy (Michael Lockerbie)

Trainspotting . The Vaults Waterloo. CREDIT Geraint Lewis Sick Boy (Michael Lockerbie)

The audience literally become part of the action including the notorious “Worst Toilet in Scotland” scene.

Against a dynamic soundscape of 80s dance music, the stories of a group of friends living through the Edinburgh heroin scene are brought to life with humour, poetry and provocatively graphic scenes.

It is directed by Kings Head Theatre artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher in collaboration with In Yer Face’s Greg Esplin who plays Tommy alongside Chris Dennis as Begbie), Michael Lockerbie (Sickboy) and Gavin Ross (Renton) in a cast of seven.

The source material for the play is the novel because it pre-dated the film, explains Adam Spreadbury-Maher. “The book came out first and then the play and because of the success of that the movie got made.

The audience is with the actors. You are in their world rather than outside

“This production has been around since 2013 and we have taken it to Edinburgh three times, toured Australia and had a run in The Vaults in London recently.”

In the meantime Trainspotting 2 came out and the effect has “been quite nice”, according to the director. “The film and the play gave each other oxygen and people could reclaim the original in a different way. There’s been a bit of word of mouth and activity on Twitter and other social media.”

But do people realise that the play will be a different animal to the movie?

“Some people come knowing what is going on and those that don’t very soon feel the love the actors show you,” considers Spreadbury-Maher.

Adam Spreadbury-Maher, director of Trainspotting Live 
Photo by Francisco Budny Macedo

Adam Spreadbury-Maher, director of Trainspotting Live Photo by Francisco Budny Macedo

“Within the 75-minute play we contain the core scenes and the characters and the journey they take. It starts out as a fun and exciting night replicating what is going on in their minds in a way many will identify with.”

And what exactly does immersive theatre mean?

“In a traditional theatre you would have a stage and then seats and a space like a no man’s land in between,” he explains. “With this the audience are with the actors and don’t have the traditional distance, you are in their world rather than outside. You get the experience in a different way. It’s more embracing.”

It seems appropriate that in Sheffield it will be seen at the Leadmill, better known as a music venue, rather than a traditional theatre.

“Putting it in unusual and alternatives spaces is one of the strengths,” confirms Spreadbury-Maher. “We enjoy performing in interesting spaces such as an ex working men’s club, a car park, under railway arches and a disused warehouse.

“With this national tour we are taking it to places it hasn’t been before and to different regions which may not have experienced this kind of work before. That said, we’re taking it to Edinburgh for a fourth time this summer.”

Are there any plans to put Trainspotting 2 on stage? “There is a stage adaptation of Porno (the 2002 novel written as a sequel to Trainspotting) which hasn’t been performed yet. The company and I love Irvine Welsh’s work and we might do one of his other books in the future.”

For his part the writer “has been very supportive and in a sense been an ambassador for us,” according to the director. “One of the most powerful things was that he has said this is the best way to experience Trainspotting which is nice of him” – and a gift for the tour’s publicity material.