Review: Trainspotting Live

Review: Trainspotting Live

Conor Hodges reviews Trainspotting Live at The Vaults theatre and dodges shit, piss and thick Scottish accents to live to tell the tale.


Normally, getting a condom full of brown liquid thrown right at you is a sign of a bad night. Not in this case. In fact, amidst the dingy, graffitied walls of The Vaults Theatre it felt perfectly normal. As a fan of both the book and the film, I have to admit I was worried that Trainspotting Live wouldn’t be original. But it’s so much better. It’s a refreshing take on the material, and it may just be that Gavin Ross usurps Ewan McGregor as the face of Mark Renton and Trainspotting.

The setting lends itself perfectly to the production. Located underneath Waterloo station, the fantastic Vaults Theatre brings the stage to the audience; all the seats are either on the stage or part of it somehow. I, for one, was sat right next to Renton’s shit-stained sofa, which was mesmerising to say the least. I felt like part of the show, and the actors made the most of it, brilliantly. Their constant stumbling into audience members with barely-audible mumbles of “I’m so fucked, Ken?” makes the show even more entertaining. One of the funniest moments involved a naked Renton using a man’s head as a towel rack after washing the “pish, shite and puke” from his body. And that’s another thing: if you’re not well-versed in Scottish slang, you’re in the wrong place. The actors use their thickest accents with no regard as to whether you understand them or not, so trying to hear all the conversation clearly is hilarious in and of itself.

The play’s ability to transition between hilarity and melancholy is an absolute testament to the actors. Some of the most memorable scenes are those when the characters experience utter devastation. The death of Sick Boy’s baby was heart breaking. The closeness to the stage, the music and the lighting all added to the actors’ believability and made the scene more poignant than in the film. During Renton’s ‘We realize that we’re aw gaunnae die’ speech I had the privilege of watching a man in the audience look like his whole worldview had just been destroyed. Even though this somewhat undermined a serious philosophical scene, it was another great experience I got from the night.

If you’re a fan of Trainspotting, or just skag and Scottish people, then this adaptation is a must-see. Even if you’re a “biscuit-arsed gadge” that’s never heard of it, go and see it. The producers found a balance between staying true to the book and making it something unique. The acting is sublime, the soundtrack is banging, and the overall experience is fucking top. Don’t choose life. Choose Trainspotting Live.

Trainspotting Live is on at The Vaults theatre until 15th January.

Featured Image: Geraint Lewis

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