Adapted by Harry Gibson from the novel by Irvine Welsh.
The King’s Head Theatre, to 27 February
115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN.
Tues-Fri 7pm & 8.30pm. Sat 5pm,7pm & 8.30pm. Sun 9pm.
On tour – MAC Rainbow Venues, Birmingham 23 March-7 April & Tobacco Factory, The Loco Klub, Bristol 6 – 17 April.
Further dates to be announced.
Runs 1hr 15mins No interval.
TICKETS: 0207 226 8561.
Review: William Russell 6 February.
Depravity, decadence, destruction, survival.
This version of Irvine Walsh’s celebrated novel about drug taking youth in Leith in the 1990s is a splendid piece of in your face theatre which still has the power to shock but is not what it was once upon a time.
It surfaced first on the fringe at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014 and has now returned to this theatre with the original Scottish cast. The production is justifiably garlanded with stars although perhaps it is all getting a little bit too pleased with itself. The audience is seated round on low steps, part of the squat in which the action mostly takes place and into which the cast erupts from time to time, taunting and tormenting the watchers.
What you see is shocking. The effects of overdosing on heroin, the depths to which addicts will sink are far from attractive to say the least. There is nudity, bowels are released all over the place, a blocked lavatory is explored for a lost stash with horrific results, a baby dies.
The six strong cast are splendid, and assume a diversity of parts with Gavin Ross as Renton, the one who might survive, being especially good. But watching the audience grappling with the Scottish accents, reeling from assaults by the cast as they intrude into our comfort zones, one got a feeling – excuse my French – that it was getting a little too close to a case of epater le bourgeois for comfort.
Danny Boyle’s film did not do that, and, this being the second time I have seen this production, I did not get that sensation when I first saw it of nice young Islington folks being suitably scandalised. Familiarity can breed not contempt, but an ease with what one is doing that means everyone needs to go back to the beginning and rethink. It remains a challenging, worth catching piece but a fresh eye would help. Powerful perhaps, it does not move the heart.
Begbie: Chris Dennis.
Ensemble: Calum Douglas Barbour.
Tommy: Greg Esplin.
June: Jessica Innes.
Alison: Erin Marshall.
Renton: Gavin Ross.
Sickboy: Rory Speed
Director: Adam Spreadbury-Maher & Greg Esplin.
Lighting Designer: Clancy Flynn.