Review: Trainspotting, King’s Head Theatre

“Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”

There’s something hugely exciting about In Your Face Theatre’s immersive take on Trainspotting which makes it clear why it was a hit on the Edinburgh Fringe last year but what it is equally thrilling is the change they have wrought upon the King Head’s theatre. The majority of the seats have gone, what set there is seems to sprawl across the entire space and as you enter the auditorium, you find yourself in the middle of a full-on 90s rave, glowsticks and all.

And this near-anarchic energy is a perfect match for Irvine Welsh’s modern classic, celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, its drug-fuelled hedonism and horror presented here with an uncompromising candour and imaginative directness that is most definitely, well, in your face. Directors Greg Esplin and Adam Spreadbury-Maher pull no punches in immersing folk in any number of bodily fluids with glorious disregard for your standard actor/audience relationship, making for an exhilarating hour.

Harry Gibson’s adaptation takes an episodic trip through the travails of Renton and co as they carouse through the dark side of Edinburgh, looking for that next hit of smack and dealing with the depths addiction lands them in. Scenes emerge explosively from all angles and have a brilliantly unpredictable edge to them – whether Chris Dennis’ bampot Begbie screaming in your face, Esplin’s Tommy squaring up to you or Gavin Ross’ inspired take on Renton leading the whole affair, it is constantly and inventively surprising. 

And there’s a great deal of humour too amongst the heroin, which means the time simply flies by in the hands of this fearsomely talented young company. To make such a bold statement of intent with an already iconic work, and to carry audiences with them in this manner in doing so, is no mean feat and consequently this is bound to become one of London’s hottest tickets. Choose life? Choose this show.

Running time: 65 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 11th April

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