Paul Johnson | 09 Sep 2011 16:44pm
In 1993, Irvine Welsh’s tale of Scottish low-lifes and heroin addicts gave British cinema an almighty kick up the backside. It was dangerous, yet exhilarating – rather like heroin itself. Could SLT’s theatrical adaptation have the same impact? The evening didn’t start well. We arrived on a bitterly cold night to find the building in the grip of a power cut. To make matters worse, when power was restored we trooped into a chilly auditorium with nowhere to sit apart from a handful of seats. Things didn’t look too promising. How wrong we were. Advance publicity billed this show as a ‘promenade’ performance; a rather polite term for a remarkable piece of theatre that thrust the audience headfirst into the squalid world of the junkie.
The acting didn’t take place on a stage, it happened all around the audience as we stood in the space. The cast – including a team of extras who doubled as mime artists – mingled and moved freely among us, even barging past if we were in the way. The set – which occupied the entire space – surrounded us with smashed-up TV screens, discarded beer cans, filthy mattresses and walls splattered with blood (or worse) making it feel as if we had somehow strayed into a council estate drug den. The effect was to make the audience nervous, unsettled and totally involved – a brave approach which in lesser hands might have backfired. But thanks to Peter Stevens’ expert direction and his superb cast, it all seemed thrillingly – and often frighteningly – real.
As Begbie Steven Imrie was every inch the intimidating and violent psychopath, right down to the tattoo on his neck. If we’d had a street to cross to avoid him, we would have. Holly McFarlane’s Alison went from drug-addled desperation to sassy swagger and showed expert comic timing in her improvised asides to the audience. As Tommy Karl Gibbons put in a moving performance and also had the unenviable task of appearing stark naked – no mean feat on a winter’s night in Norwood! And then there was Alan Brown’s short but effective portrayal of a drunken down-and-out. I swear I could smell him. With such quality on display it seems unfair to single anyone out, but special mention must go to Tom Hancock’s Renton who had us at once laughing and wincing at his tales of scatological bedroom ‘accidents’ and the difficulties of retrieving anal suppositories from the depths of a blocked public lavatory. All delivered – like the rest of the cast – in a perfect Leith accent. So thank you, SLT for one of the most memorable evenings I have ever spent in a theatre. You may have had a power cut, but this show was positively electric.
- : admin
- : 16/11/2010