17th April 2017
Back in the 90s, the iconic film was Trainspotting. Everyone was talking about it. Everyone had seen it. Everyone thought it was ground-breaking and un-missable. Everyone except me. I couldn't watch it. I knew of the book - I'm a librarian, obviously I knew about the book. And I knew that Irvine Welsh had written a piece of literature that pushed the boundaries. The film was equally as ground-breaking - but I just couldn't watch it. I did try but couldn't get past the first few minutes of it - the lives it revealed were the antithesis of mine. I was working class, but I had more in common with the judgmental "posh wifeys" than I did with the cast of this film. So a challenging choice of play for me to come and watch and I admit I came with mixed feelings. There was every possibility that I would hate it, but I hope I am less judgmental now than I was in my shallow youth and I'm prepared to give it a go...
If you think that theatre is the stronghold of the middle classes then this is the production to change your mind. The stage is set with a backdrop of graphic, graffiti riddled walls and dirty broken windows, a heavy bass beat thrums out and a hint of dry ice drifts across the stage into the auditorium. Our hands are stamped as we enter...Right from the start this is different to anything you might have experienced at the People's Theatre.
This is the story - a good story, told by Mark Renton - of a bunch of friends desperate to find an escape from the mind-numbing mundanity of life. They choose alcohol, drugs, sex, violence. Joe Mclaughlin plays the part of Renton to perfection - Renton is an intelligent addict, he knows his weakness, understands his needs, mocks the "experts" who try to understand him and cure him. He is more self aware than any of them and garners the sympathy of the audience with his mix of callous honesty and naïve vulnerability. Likewise Alison, played by Amy Herdman is a mix of hard-faced attitude hiding a soft underbelly. Between them Mclaughlin and Herdman deliver some of the most lyrical lines of the play - the poetic quality of the words at odds with the subject.
You will be shocked, be revolted and be entertained by this group of misfit friends. You will hate them, and you will love them. You will care what becomes of them.
The innovative use of video to develop the back stories and push the narrative forward is brilliant, and powerful music - used sparingly - amps up the atmosphere. This is the boldest, most daring and most powerful production I have seen at the People's. It's not comfortable. It is a unrelenting, and an astonishing piece of theatre. You will leave the theatre questioning everything you thought you knew about addicts, and yourself.
It runs until Sat 21st April and you should not miss it, ken?
Photos by Paula Smart