A gritty stage version of the Irvine Welsh classic is by turns captivating, hilarious and shocking, says Tim Hughes

  • Trainspotting Live
  • Old Fire Station Oxford

We had been warned... though it still came as a shock.

This suitably-named In Your Face production of Trainspotting Live is billed as 'immersive rave theatre', though I hadn’t expected quite how ‘ravey’... nor how immersive it would be.

Set almost in the round in the intimate space of the Old Fire Station, the audience are part of the production – the cast chaotically bouncing off us, as the tragi-comic tale of heroin addiction unfurls.

We enter the theatre to a pounding ‘90s club set, the cast dancing around with glow sticks and knocking into us.

We are handed glow wrist bands too which light up the space, adding to the sense of being locked in a banging warehouse party - but one we are forced to watch from the sidelines... quite a few of us were obviously itching to join in.

We were even issued with earplugs – which is a theatrical first – though I didn’t see anyone use them.

Based on Irvine Welsh’s book, adapted by Harry Gibson, it’s a fairly faithful, though heavily abridged, reproduction of the novel and film.

All the set pieces are there, from the Vicks Vapour Rub scene to the job interview on speed and the 'worst toilet in Scotland'  the offending loo being situated - horror of horrors - in the middle of the audience!

We lurch from one gross-out moment to another, in a riot of full frontal nudity, shouting, fighting, spitting, bodily functions and lots and lots of drug taking.

Directors Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin thrust us right into the middle of this glorious circus of debauchery, with the fourth wall smashed to pieces.

It makes for a butt-clenchingly uncomfortable experience but is utterly captivating. “What you lookin’ at?” a naked cast member says to the girl sitting next to us, his dangling genitals at our eye level. “My face is up here!”.

Excruciating but hilarious!

The comedic highlight is the ‘brown sheet’ scene – in which Renton (the fabulous Gavin Ross) emerges from a realistically soiled sofa bed and attempts to hide the hideous evidence by taking the sheet home. Much hilarity ensues, resulting in the sheet being snatched from his hands and launched into the audience to the dismay of everyone in its way - and the unbridled delight (and sense of relief) of those of us who escaped.

Let’s just say, it has put me off Nutella for life!

It’s not all laughs though. This cautionary tale quickly descends into violence, debauchery and tragedy – which we are forced to confront, face to face.

It is powerful, heart wrenching and utterly compelling stuff.

Choose your future. Choose life. Choose Trainspotting Live!

  •  5/5
  • Trainspotting continues until Saturday. oldfirestation.org.uk