Review: Trainspotting Live, The Leadmill

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

Say the words ‘immersive theatre’ and ‘Trainspotting’ - and the first thing that comes to mind is being confronted by an angry real-life Francis Begbie, brandishing a pool cue.

Author Irvine Welsh’s most terrifying character was on fine form in this raw and powerful version of the story that charts so well the 1990s heroin drug scene in Edinburgh.

In particular, a scene of domestic violence between him and long-suffering wife June was so much harder to watch than it has ever been to read.

The immersive bit of the show - now on its way through the country, to finish at the Edinburgh Fringe - was funny at first, starting as it did with a Leadmill-shaking, glowstick shaking rave to set the scene. Well-loved characters such as addicts Mark Renton and Spud hugged and danced with members of the audience - and elicited cries of horror as the ever-famous ‘worst toilet in Scotland’ section came to pass. I was glad to be sitting on the opposite side from the water-flinging.

It was less of a chronological story than a fluid journey through some of the most memorable parts of the book - one minute, Mark was naked, the next he was getting clean and then suddenly baby Dawn was dead, Tommy was dead.

Oh, Tommy. The death of the g00d-looking, righteous pal who never touched a syringe until he was dumped was almost unbearable. Flashing rave lights returned as he was thrown about the stage in a visual representation of the chaos his life descended into, ending with HIV. Mark’s cries were heartbreaking.

I’ve read Trainspotting dozens of times - but the real price the characters pay for their hit has never seemed so raw and real.

Ellen Beardmore