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Review: Trainspotting at Limelight Theatre

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

By Abbie Gallagher

The moment the audience walks into the intimate theatre space at Limelight on Oxford, the immersion begins. A paint splattered floor, a simple set consisting of empty oil drums, milk crates and a dingy camp bed. The actors slowly dance, with one boisterous character bantering with the patrons. 

The lights lower, a sheet is pulled across, giving us a shadow theatre sex scene, a blackout, and suddenly full frontal nudity. The message is clear. You are in for one hell of a ride. 

A non-linear piece,  Trainspotting is a series of vignettes narrated mainly by heroin addict Mark Renton as he battles alongside his equally troubled friends. Themes of sexism, domestic violence, the cycle of addiction and even SIDS are thrown into the spotlight through use of tableaux, and clever (albeit horrifying) physical theatre. It's hard hitting. It's a raw, unapologetic look at a horrifying reality. This feels completely real, which may be the most frightening thing of all.

From uncensored drug use, to a battered pregnant girl weeping in shock while another male savagely assaults his own girlfriend underneath a casually delivered monologue, the intimacy of the theatre space gives the audience the sense of entrapment alongside the characters. 

All the terrible scenarios we're taken through are told with a strange offhandness, which makes it all the more horrific. But at the same time, the company has found plenty of humour as evidenced in the frequent laughter permeating the violence. And most importantly, for all the matter-of-fact delivery, there is such a tenderness underneath the surface in these moments. It's almost unbearably vulnerable, exposing the ugly side of human addiction. 

Standouts in the cast are star-in-the-making Adam Golledge as Mark and Jayden Muir in the role of Alison. Both of these young performers manage to portray some of the worst scenarios known to mankind, performing unlikable deeds yet at the same time evoking true sympathy. But of course, the entire company works together. There is not a weak link here. In terms of production, the setting is perfect for this world. And Limelight is not the easiest venue to light but they've done a great job. As for sound, the actors are occasionally a little hard to understand due to the heavy Scottish accents used but this gets better as the play progresses. 

A warning. This isn't a nice night out at the theatre. Trainspotting is from the 90s period of British theatre known affectionately as "in-yer-face". The name speaks for itself. This is not bunnies and rainbows. There is copious use of the C-word, sexual activity, graphic imagery, realistic bodily fluids and plenty of nudity. This is gruesome, graphic, and confronting. Not to say this makes it bad or unbearable. Quite the contrary, this is a marvellous production of a very difficult piece. Trainspotting has all the hallmarks of being disastrous in the wrong hands. But with the masterful direction of Simon Thomson and performed by some incredibly talented and brave actors, it would be a crime to miss this one. 

Photo Credit: Emma Wright

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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