I'm a freelance writer living in Sydney. I have a Bachelor and Honours degree in Theatre and work also as a freelance director.
Trainspotting, The Play, is a controversial, grungy and hard-hitting work about the life of an addict. It has the feel of verbatim theatre, and seeks to shock and offend audiences with the truth.
The GradCo Studio production does not fail to achieve these intentions. As the audience were squeezed into the new Limelight Theatre's third floor performance space they were plunged head first into the action; walking through raving, drug affected players on the way to their seats. It seemed the production had been oversold, as extra seats were added to the aisle to ensure everyone fit.
It's worth mentioning that this meant that in the initial stages of the play, when a nude performer walked through the aisle (we were warned - the nudity wasn't the issue), the audiences faces were very close to the bare performer. The use of nudity is included to enhance the brash and confronting nature of the work, but the choice to narrow the aisle space and the audiences proximity detracted from the creative impact of that moment. There is a difference between being told a play involves nudity to having said nudity brush past your nose; something the Limelight Theatre should consider next time they oversell.
The set and production design by Dale William Morgan was simple and effective. Bare and dirty to complement the rawness of the show and enough to reflect the bleak world of an addict. Ryan McDonald's lighting was appropriate in bringing life to the small playing space and did not take away from the action. Special mention to Simon Masterson in his accent coaching for the cast; most of the company performed believably in the Scottish dialect.
Direction by Simon Thomson was bold and brave. Thomson nailed the cross over of scenes and toed the line of discomfort appropriately. Worth mentioning is the scene in Act One where Julie Bettens' character, June, stays on stage while the action continues. Thomson does not allow the audience to move on from the horrific action that has just occurred and instead deepens the intensity of the issue at hand.
The performers were all committed to the truth of the production, however, there were times where it felt as though the intensity was being forced. Adam Golledge embodied the role of Mark Renton and his performance was sublime. He mastered the nuance of each varying "high" from heroin to ecstasy and then alcohol with ease, and it is clear that he was one of, if not the strongest performer on the stage. Jayden Muir's performance of Alison was terrifyingly brilliant, and although her accent dropped at times, her portrayal of the deeply troubled and complex woman should be commended. Particular kudos to Muir's performance of Alison's Act Two monologue that highlights the productions black comedy and left the audience unsure of whether to laugh or throw up.
Matthew Vautin's Franco Begbie was horrific and petrifying and Julie Bettens June made the audience want to leave their seat to protect her. Vautin's accent made it difficult to understand him at times, however, it felt as if this enhanced the character rather than hinder it. Bettens didn't get much stage time, and yet this did not soften her ability to engage and devastate the audience with her portrayal. Some of the company members fell short in embodying the necessary depth of their characters and in turn, their performances felt forced. That's not to say there weren't effective elements to their portrayals, but it felt as though we were watching very green actors try to take on a piece of theatre intended for more experienced performers.
Trainspotting is definitely not for the fainthearted, and I would not recommend this for anyone looking for a casual night out at the theatre. However, to those theatregoers after a bit of a wild ride; Trainspotting could be the show for you. If you follow Golledge's performance alone, you'll leave feeling satisfied. However, there are other elements that make the play feel more ametuer. That being said, Trainspotting is the type of show we need to see more of, and there's kudos warranted to GradCo for tackling this intense piece of theatre. Prepare to be shocked, grossed out and a little ashamed of yourself for laughing at things you probably shouldn't be laughing at, but remember to get there early to avoid potentially sitting in the aisle.