Trainspotting Live hits Leamington: how good is it?

Trainspotting Live runs until February 10
Trainspotting Live runs until February 10

Peter Ormerod reviews Trainspotting Live at The Assembly, Leamington

Many plays these days are described as ‘in your face’, but few can mean it quite so literally. Members of the audience get beer spat over them, putrid brown liquid splattered over them, characters sitting on them, characters insulting them in the strongest terms while pressing their heads against them, genitalia dangling over them.

It’s fair to say then that Trainspotting Live may not be to everyone’s taste. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anything more graphic or confrontational ever having been performed in Leamington. And yet, for those willing to go along with it, it’s an astonishingly likeable, involving and moving piece of work.

It may be best to cast aside memories of the film. Here, the action focuses on the essence of the story: the few highs and many squalid lows of a group of heroin addicts in Edinburgh. There is very little in terms of plot, and although the cast are uniformly excellent, the vividly distinct characterisations of the cinematic version are largely absent, save for the compelling central figure of Renton (played with searing intensity and endearing wit by Frankie O’Connor). Laughter abounds, both in the majestically profane script and in moments of painful slapstick. But there’s horrific violence and profound tragedy undercutting any twisted attempts to intellectualise the lifestyle.

Add a storming soundtrack and inventive lighting, and we have a devastatingly powerful spectacle. You might want to have a wash afterwards, mind.

* Trainspotting Live runs until Saturday February 10. Visit trainspottinglive.seetickets.com to book.