Get a dramatic hit from Progress Theatre's Trainspotting

Published: 15 Mar 2014 09:300 comments

IRVINE Welsh’s gritty, violent and brutally honest novel, Trainspotting, made waves (and turned some stomachs) when it was published back in 1993. The darkly comic narrative takes the form of interwoven short stories, told by a group of Edinburgh friends whose lives are steeped in heroin addiction or the fallout from it. Unshrinking, raw and often graphic, it has been hailed as ”the voice of punk, grown up, grown wiser and grown eloquent”.

Luke Hereford as Tommy
Photo: Mandy King

Luke Hereford as Tommy
Photo: Mandy King

The story of the characters’ destructive tendencies and often sickeningly comic mishaps – in bars, bedsits and drug dens – was adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson in the mid-1990s (before the novel was made into a cult film starring Ewan McGregor) and features unforgettable characters including protagonist Mark ‘Rentboy’ Renton, promiscuous Sickboy and sociopathic Begbie. It’s both surprising and exciting that Progress Theatre have chosen it as the latest tale to bring to their Reading stage.

We caught up with director Matt Tully to find out how he and his cast tackled this challenging work.

“Staging Trainspotting has been an incredibly challenging but very rewarding process.

”Doing a play in Scottish dialect with predominantly English amateur actors; making quite unpleasant characters seem appealing to the audience; tackling issues such as drug use and domestic violence without alienating the audience – balancing all of these aspects while directing one of my favourite books of all time has made me feel that I knew these people and could identify with them even though their circumstances are very different to mine. It’s an incredible piece of writing – horrific yet hilarious – that draws you into the world of these people and makes you care about them.

“It’s a play about consequences. Some very bad things happen as a result of their behaviour, but it is laced with humour, some of it very dark. It is an adaptation of the book, not the film, and therefore the characters are not softened and glamourised for a Hollywood audience. It is not a play for children or those easily shocked, but I have tried to make the characters identifiable and sympathetic, so that it avoids alienating the audience, despite issues such as drug use and domestic violence.”

He added that it had been a challenge tackling the Scottish dialect in which the majority of the novel is written: “The cast have been working hard, with help from one of the members, Rachel, who is from Edinburgh. Having the script in dialect, with its more phonetic spellings, is actually a great help. They have all been very dedicated, and the results of their hard work really show.”

And although the production is most definitely not for children or the easily offended, Matt explained it would appeal to “anyone interested in human nature. You care for and identify with the characters, so its appeal is very wide.”

Trainspotting runs from Monday-Saturday, March 17-22 and features strong language, violence and nudity. Tickets are £10 with £8 for concessions from www., on 0118 960 6060, or in person at the Hexagon or Town Hall. Group discounts are available.

Visit to read the production blog.

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