BRUTAL, balanced and darkly funny, Trainspotting has come home, triumphantly.
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KING’S THEATRE, Leven Street
Cheesy 80’s pop hits set the scene before the curtain rises on a time that, for many in Edinburgh, holds far darker memories.
An era when the city was tagged ‘the AIDS capital of the world’ and when life for some was a desperate never-ending cycle of funding their next fix.
The characters created by Irvine Welsh are now known the world over; Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie international anti-heroes thanks to their exploits on film.
To their credit, all thoughts of McGregor, Bremner and co are quickly forgotten as the cast of the Citizens Theatre production stamp their own individuality on the unholy quartet.
The success of the production is down to two brilliant performances by Lorn Macdonald and Gavin Jon Wright. Together, they are the glue that holds the piece together.
A series of explicit monologues, linked by often graphic scenes of life in the seedy Leith underworld peopled by addicts, dealers and pimps, Trainspotting offers no-holds-barred snapshots of life as a junkie, capturing the dehumanising effect of heroin along the way.
Lorn Macdonald, rarely off stage throughout, shines as Mark Renton in a sympathetic and riveting portrayal.
His rendition of the iconic Choose Life monologue against the pounding beat of New Order’s hypnotic Blue Monday is electric.
The gallows’ humour of the ‘worst toilet in Scotland’ scene plumbs new depths as he fishes for the remnants of his Opium suppositories, earning Macdonald a spontaneous round of applause.
Gavin Jon Wright was born to play Spud, his hang-dog features bringing a physical expression to Spud’s every fleeting thought with comic timing second to none.
With the limits of a five strong cast, the other three actors play multiple roles, which leads to formulaic direction in parts.
Nevertheless, designer Max Jones’ austere concrete jungle is a suitably minimalist tableau for the unfolding action.
Despite an effectively trippy ritualistic introduction to the mechanics of ‘shooting up’, however, subsequent fixes lack gritty authenticity.
Chloe-Ann Tylor as the only female on stage bounces from role to role, convincing particularly as Alison and Dianne, while Angus Miller, doubling as Tommy and Sick Boy, demonstrates his movement strengths in the ‘surreal HIV+ game show’ near the top of Act II.
Martin McCormick, meanwhile, invests both psycho Begbie and a balletic Mother Superior with larger than life energy.
Scottish touring theatre at its best, this production of Trainspotting - adapted by Harry Gibson and directed by Gareth Nicholls - brings home the desperation and tragedy of a lost generation.
It does so while inducing laughter and tears and, perhaps most importantly, eliciting hope.
Choose Trainspotting, ken.
Run ends Saturday