Smock Alley Theatre
Renton doesn’t choose life. Renton chooses “something else.” Tracing the interlocking stories of a group of friends, acquaintances, “associates,” whose lives have been ravaged by heroin, Trainspotting is a sharp, painfully funny and agonisingly heartbreaking piece.
From the off the cast bring an impressive energy and passion to the performance, with Shane O’Regan once again showing his skill and versatility as an actor, delivering a vivid, raw turn as Renton. O’Regan captures the multi-faceted nature of the character; he is not just “a junkie,” he is a character that has a burning vitality and story around him. As well as portraying the intensity of Renton, O’Regan has a particular skill for quick quips, delivering sharp laughs and gags with a perfectly measured but naturalistic style. Lórcan Strain’s performance as Tommy was also impressive, capturing the changing situation impressively. The entire cast caught the essence of their characters, however, in the case of Foley and Healy there were moments at which this was masked by dubious Edinburgh accents. Inaccurate accents, laid on too thickly resulted in lines being lost.
Noteworthy in terms of Tracy Ryan’s direction is her use of the all too often neglected upper levels of the Boy’s School giving a powerfully immersive feeling to the piece. Ryan allows the audience to take in many aspects of the characters and situation by having the characters engage directly with them, breaking down the distance created by more traditional staging.
Adding to this immersive feeling, Brian Murray’s lighting design, with its initial club atmosphere, right through to moments of intense use of shadow, was a particularly strong feature of the production. Once again, the clever use of the space available was evident in the design.
The whole production was well-constructed to truly draw the audience into the characters’ story, to the extent that at one point when a number of characters are chanting for another to jump dangerously from a height, members of the audience were so caught up in the atmosphere that they joined in the chant before realising what they were doing and stopping. This is a good indicator of just how engaging and powerful this production is.
Trainspotting is not an easy play to watch, it demands engagement both in terms of your attention and your emotions, but it is a great play to watch. I came out of the auditorium well and truly phased by the intensity of the production; it didn’t feel like watching characters, it felt like watching people, and that is what makes Trainspotting an entertaining but stomach-turning and heart-wrenching piece of theatre.
Trainspotting runs until February 13th