Danny Boyle's 'Trainspotting' is one of my favourite films. It is one that has always frightened me by how much I seemed to romanticise heroin. The characters' freedoms and strong bonds seemed to nullify the dead babies and shitty toilets. The almost bleak world created by Irvine Welsh is always at the back of my mind and I often wondered if I should have “chosen something else”.
Emu Productions and Black Box Theatre's production of 'Trainspotting' at the King St Theatre was more true to Irvine Welsh's book than the film. I had a suspicion this might be the case. Although Renton is still our cranked-out protagonist disappointing everyone he knows, there are a few key characters from the film missing. Diane and Spud, namely. For those of you uninitiated to the vile world of 'Trainspotting', and after hearing a conversation in the queue at the box office I have come to realise these people do exist, I'll clue you in. The squats of Edinburgh play a labyrinth of homes to the comatose, disenfranchised, heroin junkies of Renton (Damien Carr) , Sick Boy (Brendon Taylor), Begbie (Leigh Scully) and Tommy (also Taylor). We follow them though their euphoric highs and ulcerated lows as they live a life of heroin dependancy.
The play also included an every-woman character, played by Taylor Beadle-Williams, that was absent form the film. Carr was the only performer to play one character with the other three bouncing from one character to the next, often within the scene. This was sometimes confusing. I found myself losing grip on the narrative as I struggled to work out who was who and whose baby had died. It is possible that director Luke Berman had set it up to deliberately confuse his audience, to immerse them into the addled and confused state of his characters, but he probably didn't.
The mise-en-scene was spot on. Part squat interior, part filthy toilet, part alleyway, the sets oozed squalor. Berman, doing his own set design, truly captured the rancid nature of Edinburgh's skag-dens. A standout moment for me and seemingly a gross-out moment for the rest of the audience, was the scene where Renton needs to recover his opium- rectal suppositories from a toilet filled with bog that clumped like oatmeal. It was vile. I loved it.
I enjoyed the music, though really it was just the film's soundtrack. I also thought some of the additional choices were a little anachronistic, for example Chumbawamba's 'Tubthumping', which was released in the late 90's, whereas 'Trainspotting' was meant to be set in the 80's.
As I walked home I thought about the premise of 'Trainspotting'. Was it that a life of drugs always ends badly? Maybe. Somehow I think the play manages to say “a life of drugs makes you more interesting.” Instead, as I headed home, I found myself thinking about the accountant's bill I needed to pay and how I probably need new boots. Should I have chosen a different life? I walked under the bridge near Central and past a woman slumped over, smacked out of her mind. Her skull visible though her skin, her arms a fleshy mess.
I pulled my hood over my head and chose to go home and write this instead.