First, there was the book, then the play, then the movie, and now tweaking at its highest level yet…the incredible Trainspotting Live – an immersive experience.
The trip begins well before the show. You climb 4 sets of grungy stairs, then after a stop at the bar, you wait in a long dark smoky graffiti-covered corridor, hearing thumping music inside, waiting to get into ‘a club’. You’re already immersed. “Are you an introvert or extrovert?” determines the colour of your neon bracelet, perhaps to help with seating or perhaps to let the actors know who they can approach, but it really didn’t seem to matter.
Check any sense of a fourth wall at the door.
As you take your seats (two rows on each side of a long pit), the experience is well underway with pounding music, flashing strobes, and energetic, drunken, high, very cute club kids dancing all around us, shedding their shirts, kissing and hugging the audience. But this was just the beginning. We have just joined a heroin-infused journey through Edinburgh’s underbelly.
When they say immersive, they don’t mean one of those plays where audience members are uncomfortably taken up on stage. They mean you are going to be played with, relentlessly. Taking sips from our drinks, splattering us from a dirty toilet bowl, lots of ‘shiite’ everywhere, being climbed over and on and under. One actor flomps his head between my knees saying “he’s so high” (so in the spirit I gave him a shoulder massage to help him come down.)
The 75 minute, no intermission speedball show is literally non-stop, only taking a drug-holiday from the madness for a kicking scene, a dead baby scene, a wild job interview scene, and saying goodbye to Tommy.
There wasn’t a weak moment, ever. Andrew Barret (Renton) is fully captivating for every second, even (more so) with his clothes off – “My eyes are up here” he says to one audience member staring. Who will ever forget his soiled bare butt, or the suppository being inserted, and the now iconic digging through the toilet bowl when it comes out.
Josh Goulding’s (Tommy) only slightly more innocent character gives us some of the touching moments, with his final descent amped up by being dragged back and forth, nude, vulnerable, having us momentarily stunned.
Sickboy, lasciviously played by Tariq Malek had the girls (and boys) drooling from the first hit, encouraging from the audience a feel here, a feel there, a kiss here, and a kiss there… which cast members Allison (Lauren Downie), and Mother Superior (Olivier Sublet) are also willing to give. Lauren and Olivier play several characters so well that it seems like there are way more than 5 in the cast. It must be the hallucinogens talking.
Personally, I would have wished the character arcs of Renton coming off the ‘scag’, and Tommy getting on it, to have been developed further, but it didn’t matter, this was more about the journey. If I seemed to be emphasizing the eroticism and bodies, that’s because they are worth emphasizing.
The warning says it all: Nudity, splatter, very strong language, violent & sexual nature, heavy drug/needle use, Scottish accents!
They got knocked down, but they got up again. You’re are never gonna keep these actors down! Find a vein and slam this show!
On until January 26, 2018
Roy Arias Stages, 777 8th Ave, New York
Photos from: trainspottingnyc.com