Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Trainspotting review at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow – ‘refreshing and clear’

Lorn Macdonald and Gavin Jon Wright in Trainspotting at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. Photo: Tim Morozzo
by -

Smashing through the memories of Danny Boyle’s 1995 movie, Gareth Nicholls’ production gets to the heart of Trainspotting. Harry Gibson’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s iconic novel, which predates the film, was first staged at the Citizens, so this is a coming home, of sorts.

Nicholls draws direct, physical performances from his five-strong company of actors and bold strokes from his design team to unleash a take which is fresh, while also familiar.

It’s set in Leith and Edinburgh in the 1980s, when they were the heroin capital of Europe. Nicholls ensures that the company get the language spot on, both in terms of accent and the twitches of addiction. Philip Gladwell’s lighting and MJ McCarthy’s sound create a warm, womb-like world, in which words are not enough to convey the drug’s seductive power.

Lorn MacDonald finds the necessary charisma for the cocky, Kierkegaard-quoting Renton while also capturing the character’s underlying fears and self-doubt. It is Renton’s affair with the drug that pulls the episodic structure together, and his interwoven direct narration that drives the action.

Gavin Jon Wright is all twitch and dimness as Spud, while Chloe-Ann Tylor finds all the different shades and quirks of the female characters. Owen Whitelaw’s Begbie has something of the genuine psychopath to him, but is too quiet in his delivery and ultimately understates his character’s core drive – which is told not revealed.

Thoroughly entertaining and also powerful, the production’s pace still drops a shade during the set-piece monologues that – Renton’s take on his squaddie brother’s death in Northern Ireland apart – never transcend their self-contained status.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Refreshing and clear take on the iconic Irvine Welsh novel undermined by its own set-pieces