Breathtaking and confronting

By Rebecca Waese

Trainspotting Live, directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin, and performed by the aptly named Scottish theatre company In Your Face, is challenging, irreverent, assaulting and haunting. Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel and adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson, this spectacularly immersive production has arrived in Melbourne on its Australian tour. Upon entry to a transformed fortyfivedownstairs, audience members are given glow sticks, wrist bands, and encounter the heightened pitch of a rave in Edinburgh in the late 1980s. Enthusiastic spectators are invited to dance with the actors. Sound designer Tom Lishman elevates the cast and audience through some familiar trance tracks like Sandstorm as the eerily good Renton (Gavin Ross), Sick Boy (Michael Lockerbie) and Begbie (Chris Dennis) interact with audience members on the ecstatic trip together.

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From the adrenaline-fueled high, we crash hard into the bleak world of addiction. The characters shock us and each other with their violence, betrayals and failings. Dark humour arises from the class divisions and the addicts’ relentless drives to get their fixes. The Scottish slang is often impenetrable but the desires and torments of the actors are never unclear. Renton, Sick Boy, Begbie, and Tommy (Greg Esplin) embody their roles brilliantly with frightening and uncanny nuances, and Alison (Erin Marshall), Laura (Rachael Anderson) and the dealer, Mother Superior (Calum Barbour), create impassioned and memorable roles. The actors transgress so many conventional boundaries as they engage the audience to see the junkies’ world from the inside. Most audience members will need to wash afterwards. There are no safe seats. My partner had his head licked. We were splattered by beer, spit, and brown liquid from the toilet scene. At least one spectator left, horrified. It was repulsive and riveting; confronting and ultimately profound.

The demise of one character is particularly affecting because he abstained from drugs for so long; his fall is swift and merciless as he contracts HIV from sharing needles. Lighting designer Clancy Flynn creates a sickly green glow in a strobe sequence as the character’s world crashes down; during this final scene, there is a ten-minute theatre lockdown where no one can escape the nightmare. But for the affected audience, there is hope at the end from another character who quits cold turkey and takes us through the junkie’s limbo into health.

Trainspotting Live, coinciding with the release of Danny Boyle’s long-awaited film, Trainspotting T2, is a visceral and unforgettable experience. Choose wisely; if you are keen to go, book now.


Strictly Ages 16+

The show delivers an entirely immersive experience. Do not wear your best clothes.

Nudity, coarse language, violent and sexual themes and imagery, heavy drug/needle use, haze effects, strobe lighting and simulated smoking.


ticket price: $34 – $45

March 22- April 13.

03 9662 9966