You've not truly experienced Trainspotting until a naked emaciated addict lies at your feet and injects heroin into his penis
The Sage Theatre production of Trainspotting is not for the sqeamish nor the prudish. As one would expect from the subject matter, it is a gritty and brutal portrayal of the lives and relationships of a group of heroin addicts in Edinburgh. But it is also filled with dark humour and the cutting witticisms of the lead character, Mark Renton, as he narrates the ensuing struggles to survive, to score smack,and to stay on the dole.
The invitation on the playbill is to "get closer" and upon entering the Joyce Doolittle Theatre, the intent behind these words is immediately evident. The theatre is tiny, holding perhaps 65 chairs, in a room of exposed brick walls and black floor. The Clash was playing over the sound system as we chose our seats, followed by Joy Division, the Buzzcocks, and Magazine - very fitting music for establishing the setting. No Iggy Pop, though.
The thrust staging of this play allows no separation between audience and actor; the play juts into the your face, bringing you intimately into this coarse and disturbing environment. There is no escaping the brutish behaviour unfolding on the playing space. Buttons fly into the audience as a shirt is ripped open, disgusting toilet water from the "filthiest toilet in Scotland" sprays into the air after Renton triumphantly retrieves the heroin suppositories that he has inadvertently shat out, fake blood scatters dangerously close to your coat when a brute punches his girl friend in the face.
But this production is not simply about shock value. There is tenderness here as well, there is insight into political and economic systems coming from a man who has never held down a job, and there is glorious, riotous humour.
The play makeup, not something I would normally comment on, is exceedingly well done. All the actors, who appear so hale and hearty in their publicity photos, are emaciated, drawn, bruised and marked with needle tracks. And the actors must have suffered for their craft, as they all looked considerably thinner than they appear in their publicity photos. Especially the naked guy.
I was completely drawn into this production. It was raw and funny and shocking and oddly uplifting.
I think I am becoming addicted to live theatre again. Just when I thought I was clean.
Tonight, though, I indulge my other addiction. Off to see the New Pornographers, Novillero, and the Immaculate Machine.
I know it's a bit of a cliche, but it's still a great song from the film Trainspotting.
Here is Iggy Pop - Lust for Life
Get music codes at Bolt.