Trainspotting: A Shit-Spattered Scottish Version Of The Arabian Nights

By Stuart Black Last edited 49 months ago
Trainspotting: A Shit-Spattered Scottish Version Of The Arabian Nights ★★★★☆ 4


Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

It's the 21st anniversary of Irvine Welsh's novel Trainspotting and, frankly, it's amazing to think it's made it. By all rights it should have keeled over long ago, choking on its puke, undercarriage smeared in its own drug-steeped faeces.

Yet this fringe production at Islington's Kings Head Theatre Pub — just down from the wilds of Scotland — is fizzing with vitality. It's spunky, in all senses of that word, fresh, funny, grim and glorious with a youthful cast on terrifyingly anarchic form (think the Young Ones — on smack). Gavin Ross as Mark Renton leads the troupe of talented and fearless actors as if they’re taking on the whole world: he, them and the show barely pause once for breath.

It’s an hour-long production that crams a lot in, channelling both Welsh's book and Danny Boyle's decade-defining film (with plenty of musical and visual references for fans of the latter), yet it also manages to be its own thing. The show is scarily unpredictable in the moment and, as a result, very funny (when you can understand it) and also, at times, quite savagely emotional.

There's not much narrative to get hold of — it's more like a loosely-linked series of apocryphal pub anecdotes, each one more balls-out and/or disturbing than the last. In that sense, it’s like a shit-spattered Scottish version of the Arabian Nights.

Interestingly, the directors have done away with most of the seating and the play starts off like an underground 90s house party with techno blaring, glow-sticks and — count em — seven walk-outs in the first 10 minutes (poncy Sassenach fuckheeds!). There's a healthy amount of contempt for the audience, so if you are taking friends, best prepare them for some horribly immersive moments (and probably tell them not to wear their favourite clothes).

Trainspotting runs at the King's Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street N1, until 11 April (several shows per night). Tickets £10-£19.50. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 21 March 2015