Trainspotting is one of the few cases where I believe the film does justice to the book, transformed into a cult sensation at the hands of Danny Boyle. But what of this interactive theatre version, co-produced by In Your Face and the King’s Head Theatre? Bright lights flash, aggressive beats thud; smoke seeps its way out of a room packed with bodies. We get a glow in the dark bracelet, a stamped wrist. If it wasn’t so light outside I might really believe we were going into a club. That is, until we are told to sit on the floor, cross-legged like children and watch the dancing continue as we sit on the periphery and observe.
On many occasions throughout this performance, it feels as though we are almost invited into the action – but not quite. An exciting atmosphere is created, but we are only able to sit and watch. A storyline begins – and then it cuts off. I wanted to get more stuck into this world and I wasn’t able to. The narrative is exposed as incomplete in this traditional sit-down-and-watch setting, yet the fragmented nature of it could have worked really well as a promenade piece of theatre (and resulted in less numb bums). I could decipher a vague plot, having seen the film several times and read the book, but a Trainspotting virgin would be completely lost here.
The interactive bits come when performers push their way into the audience, rub themselves on them or dip their hands into audience members’ drinks. It keeps us on our toes, although doesn’t really add to the atmosphere or to the story. The interactions often feel like cheap tricks – for example, when Renton wakes up in a poo-stained bed and throws the sheets into the audience, provoking screams of disgust. This scene is drawn out way too long and offers nothing interesting or new; it simply capitalises on the shock factor and leaves behind the depth of the story.
The cast are energetic and committed, and their performances play a key role in making this production as fun and sassy as it is. The setting is near on perfect: an abandoned warehouse with graffiti all over the walls, a dirty sofa in the corner. It’s a grim and grotty story, represented well in the space. However, this ambitious and promising production doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head. Trainspotting is rich and powerful material but something gets lost in amongst the audience’s gasps. I don’t mind someone jumping on me or getting their spit on my face, as long as it advances the story and gets me into their world. This time, I was left behind.