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Review: Trainspotting Live at Pleasance Cromdale Tunnel - Ed Fringe

Review by Lucy Holz


A fan of the Trainspotting movies and having actually seen this show several years ago in Melbourne, when I saw they were performing Trainspotting Live at Edinburgh Fringe this year I knew I had to be there.


Following the tragic, comic and violent lives of heroin addicts in Edinburgh, Trainspotting has captured the imagination of creatives worldwide. Originally a bestselling and controversial book by Irvine Welsh, this work has had sequels, movies and of course, Trainspotting Live.


Adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson, this play is a flawless example of ‘there’s no such thing as taking it too far’. Presented by In Your Face Theatre, this show does just that, gets right in your face.


No audience member is safe here, with a traverse stage jutting out between two long seating banks. We enter the theatre to a rave, with actors immediately interacting with and guiding us to our seats. This is truly an immersive experience, with performers expertly instructing the audience as to how best to participate.


Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher makes expert use of the unusual space, ensuring there are no bad seats in the house (only wet ones). Set is minimal and placed at the ends of the stage, allowing the actors full freedom to roam and create the grungy world of the play.


With plenty of shit, piss, spit and musical chairs, this show pushes the boundaries of what theatre can be. It is 75-minutes of laughing, gasping, cringing and desperately trying to avoid the latest shower of dubious liquid.


This play may well be the most intense piece of theatre you ever see, with the realities of drug addiction played out in front of you with no holds barred. Gut wrenching scenes of domestic violence and HIV diagnosis are cushioned by the constant comedy of the dialogue and direct address.


This is undoubtedly an ensemble piece, with each performer abandoning themselves completely to their role. The commitment makes this play the iconic show that it is and could not be done with anyone other than the highest class of actor. However, it would be criminal not to comment on the performance of Olivia Caw, understudy for the titular female lead. Her portrayal flits from funny to heartbreaking, with her constant character transformations leaving us truly transfixed.


When the ushers are handing out earplugs before the show, it’s hard not to form some assumptions about Tom Lishman’s sound design. Although the initial club music is loud, the following score is flawless, including homages to the movie soundtrack while still having its own unique sound.


This play is an intense and powerful exploration of the unfathomable life of an addict. It is completely untouchable in its uniqueness, as I have never seen anything like it in those intermediate years between my first viewing and today. A piece of genius in all its iterations, the essence of Trainspotting has been not only captured but enhanced in this play. Sit in the front row if you dare.


Image Supplied

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