Seasoned actors from Progress Theatre as well as a generous helping of newcomers teamed up to deliver a spotless performance of Irvine Welsh’s novel “Trainspotting” this evening.
Matt Tully makes his directing debut in this brutal portrayal of life in the grimy underclass of Edinburgh, along with co-director Tony Wernham who is no stranger when it comes to treading the boards or directing with Progress.
For those of you who are aware of the book, it is overflowing with page upon page of wonderful material, so much that to depict it all in a theatre production would render it going on forever. Matt and Tony have cleverly directed this rendition by Progress Theatre to be a selection of set piece scenes and knit them with the flat vowelled, foul-mouthed yet beautifully delivered monologues from Progress newcomer Warrick Manning who plays the role of unemployed university drop-out druggie Mark “Rent Boy” Renton; a character which has demanding lines in quantity and quality, but one which Warrick rises to the occasion magnificently.
The pace of the production is relentless and unless you’re a native Northerner or are familiar with the Scots accent and its cornucopia of slang and banter, you’d have to concentrate hard to keep up. Owen Goode plays the role of violent sociopath Francis “Franco” Begbie effortlessly; his character immersion so convincing that any lingering memories of Robert Carlyle in the movie role are swiftly banished to the back of your mind. The only positive thing about Begbie is that he’s clean; a non-user. Other than that, Owen plays the vileness of the role brilliantly.
Nicole Howe played the piece of pocket dynamite who is Alison; cocky, savvy and who takes no prisoners. Alison is no-one’s fool, and in spite of the despair she displays when faced with an horrific scene, she also highlights that ballsy survival response when offended in her waitressing role.
Luke Hereford takes on the roles of Tommy Lawrence as well as Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson. Dual roles in plays can get a little confusing, so it does help if you know of the plot layout even if you have not seen the screenplay. As Tommy, the interplay between his character and that of Renton is superb to watch; a real social tapestry of amorality in a tug-of-war against Renton’s almost fatalistic approach to life. Tommy reaches out to Renton on losing his girlfriend, Lizzie, and slowly succumbs to the seedy underworld of drug addiction. Taking on the role of Sick Boy, Luke bravely shows the sorrowful development of the character after the main despair event in his role.
New girl in town Rachel Miller also plays a dual role – those of Lizzie Macintosh (Tommy’s ex-girlfriend) and June – Begbie’s ex-girlfriend. As Lizzie, Rachel is the desire of Tommy’s heart though it is unrequited as Lizzie has dumped him.
Whilst the characterisation of the roles was hilarious, witty, dark and horrific, the dual-role set up was a little distracting to the overall enjoyment of the production. In any event, there were some superb tableau performances to be watched, and solid delivery all-round.
Trainspotting is not just gritty. It’s hard-hitting, dirty, vulgar and grim – and it is all done beautifully. With two instances of nudity and profanity running throughout, it might not be a performance to take your elderly Great Aunt Maude to watch, but with a honest helping of the brutality of life with drug addiction, it is a stunning performance which is very worthwhile seeing.
Trainspotting opens on 17 March and runs until 22 March 2014, with performances commencing at 7:45pm. For more information contact www.progresstheatre.co.uk.
Choose a night out. Choose Progress Theatre. Choose Trainspotting.