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

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

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Verdict
Refreshing and clear take on the iconic Irvine Welsh novel undermined by its own set-pieces
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