Wednesday, October 18, 2006

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.


Anonymous said...

sounds like it was a good play, very intense. When I lived in Winnipeg I use to have a subscription to the theatre, really enjoyed it and then going out for drinks or dessert after was good

Allison said...

That was an excellent review Barb. I especially enjoyed the line about the "buttons flying into the audience", my mind went to that scene in the moive, which to this day is the most grossed out I've ever been watching a film.
I grew up in Stratford, and we went to theatre all the time. I think it helped shape me today, and I wish everyone had the chance to go to more plays.

I can't listen to "Lust for Life" anymore. It just makes me wanna impale hot pokers in Jet's eyes.

John Mutford said...

Once again, I am jealous.

mellowlee said...

Awesome review!!!!!! I felt like I was right there. Wish I had been. If it comes here, and I have the funds, I am SO Going,and making Sean go with me!!! I love the song Lust for Life. I was just at bolt before I came here, and saw you uploaded it, and realized what that meant...that you must have seen the play and there was a reveiw waiting YAY *G* Hope you have a great time, can't wait to hear about it :)

Karen said...

That sounds like a great way to experience a play. Oftentimes, you're stuck way at the back, can barely see what's going on onstage and I find I tend to zone out if I'm not closer to the action.

And what a great play to see. I was surprised when you first mentioned it but it sounds like it translated well from screen to stage.

Will said...

Great review Barbara, and I think the setting from what you said truly suited the subject matter.

I don't know if the play stuck strictly to the movie, but if it did then I'm sure it would have been memorable.

The film is indeed a classic in every sense. The pathetic low life characters, the tragedy of the baby in the squalid bedroom (the most horrific moment for me), trapped shell like individuals whos only form of solace is the next hit and the useless company they surround themselves with.

I have one minor reservation with the movie and it's one of judgement and identification. Some people (not me) chose to glorify the characters from the movie and that may have been down to a shallow misreading, or the occasional clips you saw on TV which showed gangs, good music and none of the tragedy.

I think the production you saw showed none of the glory, and that's how it should have been portrayed.

Maureen said...

Sounds like a great show. We have a local theatre group here, and while I'm sure they'll never do Trainspotting, it's a lot of fun to go to their productions.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I had a theatre subscription when I lived in Winnipeg as well, Kelly. How odd, there must be something about Winnipeg... Well, I was a student at the time and season's tickets were really cheap.

Well you grew up in prime theatre country then, Allison! I'm not surprised you are studying film (not theatre, I know, but related).
The toilet scene was pretty gross in the play as well, except he kept his head out of the water, but still, it was right at my feet. Ewwww!
I know ... about stupid Jet! They almost ruined Lust for Life for me as well, but I have managed to erase them from my memory banks (rift stealers!).

But you get to be in plays, John. Perhaps you guys can produce Trainspotting... or not.

You are such a detective, Mel. I feel like calling you Jim Rockford (and that is a compliment of the highest order).
It was an intense and great experience.

It did translate well, Karen, although it would have been a difficult play to produce, not the least because of the accents (which would be hard to maintain for 2 hours).
With it being produced in a thrust fashion, every audience member was intimately involved in the action. You could not do this in a larger theatre.

The play was a hybrid between the film and the novel, I think, Ben. There were scenes in the play that were only in the novel, not the film, so it was a quite different experience.
I agree that the film is indeed a classic, and although the play did offer a small glimmer of hope throughout the squalor, there was no glory in the lifestyle. You would have enjoyed it, I think.

I'm going to start going to more smaller productions, Maureen. I like the intimate settings better (just like for concerts).

Deb said...

After the first line I almost couldn't go on....oh my! To think any male would willingly do that....?!

You have provided an excellent actually gave me shivers. Awesome job - I felt like I was sitting right there, in that little theatre. I, also, probably would really enjoy this. I just like peeking into that world - I'm so curious about it all. It probably stems from my brother falling into that lifestyle (although he was never "injecting" himself). I don't know why - it's like a car crash to me and I just can't look away.

The part involving the toilet really is the ultimate definition of "hitting bottom", isn't it? I just feel so sad that some actually really do live like that.

You should do this for a living - you're writing is so clearly descriptive to me and I could really envision everything that you've portrayed here....WOW..good job Barb. I could feel it.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy live theatre. However, I am not inspired to see much around here. When I have gone I usually leave disappointed. However, there are so many good experiences to be had by theatre, good or bad, that I suppose makes it worth the trip.

Thanks for the review.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Thank you, Deb! You are far too kind. Well, to be honest, I would like nothing better than to do this sort of thing for a living, but so does 3/4 of the world, I think, so I do it for a hobby.
There is something utterly fascinating about glimpsing into that world, isn't there? And I can certainly see the added impetus for you, to try to understand what led your brother there. I wish him all the best in getting his life back.

I hate to say it, Leazwell, but you really do have more choice of quality theatre in larger centres. I guess that's only natural. Still, regardless of the quality, I agree that it is always lovely to get out to a play in the evening. I plan to take up that habbit again.

phlegmfatale said...

From Eno to Iggy, the Trainspotting soundtrack is film perfection. This sounds like a great live production.

Alana Elliott said...

I'm not all that experienced with theatrical plays (unfortunately!), but your review was incredible, and LMAO @ your title. Disgusting AND hilarious!

Anonymous said...

How many things struck me here, wow. First, the tapestry of heroin addiction, it's rich & too frequently tragic. Second, I grew up in a town called Renton, hah. Third, 'Lust for Life,' it's a guilty pleasure.

A lifetime trip in a post, Barbara, that's too real. :)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

The soundtrack is pretty damn great, isn't it, PF? The music used in the theatre prior to the play starting was more solidly Britpop but still evoked the atmosphere needed.

Thanks Alana! I love a punchy title myself and I thought one with some shock value was a fitting tribute to the production.
(Winnipeg is filled with great theatre - you should check some out)

Kewl, Michelle! I didn't mean to take you on a magic carpet ride, but I'm glad I did.
"the tapestry of heroin addiction" - what a great turn of phrase!