Rude, rough, relentless and raucous, this adaptation by Henry Gibson of Irvine Welsh’s first and spectacularly successful novel from 1993 is in your face, presenting the soulless, violent, cruel and empty world of heroin addicts living in Leith, in Edinburgh, in the late 1980s.
Gibson says of his adaptation, “It’s not what critics call ‘a well-made play,’ back in 1994 we simply aimed to get it on, small and quick, because we thought highly of Welsh’s stuff and wanted to see if it could work on stage. It’s a rough sketch of a rough lifestyle.”
Director Simon Thomson is uncompromising in presenting confronting snapshots of the daily lives of his characters. There is much injecting on stage, there is ugly nudity, and there’s a lot of shit, blood and piss. It is a nauseating world for a middle-class audience to be exposed to, especially when their world is the target of these degenerates, who seem to bare few signs of humanity.
Our hero, or rather anti-hero, is Mark “Rent Boy” Renton, played by the charismatic Adam Golledge, who acts as our interpreter of the world of this repellent cluster of losers. Appallingly, Golledge dives into a toilet bowl where he has unintentionally released a couple of opium suppositories which he wants back! You have to see it to believe it.
Matthew Vautin is intimidating as the aggressive Franco Begbie, especially when he screams at the audience and confronts those unlucky enough to be sitting in the front row.
Golledge and Vautin and seven other cast members all take nothing in payment for performing in Gibson’s adaptation, such is the competitive nature of acting. They do a brilliant job of presenting a sordid world and deserve at least to get PTSD counselling at the end of the season.
Go see the show — if you dare.
NB: The adaptation should appeal to younger theatregoers who may have stronger stomachs for experiencing such theatrical fare.
Reviewed by Irina Dunn