Much like its famed source material – Irvine Welsh’s notorious 1993 novel, later filmed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle -- “Trainspotting Live,” now at Roy Arias Stages, is a painful and pungent reminder of the dangers of drug addiction, from neglecting one’s child (leading to its death) to the possibility of one’s own mortality to the unbelievably unpleasant necessity of having to use the filthiest toilet ever –as well as being desperate enough to dig missing drugs out of its infested waters.
And while I think everyone who chooses to watch this highly immersive 75-minute work will get the work’s ultimate message, the cautionary nature of the tale is a bit undercut (perhaps deliberately) by director Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s overly busy production. From the moment you enter the rectangular, bisected room (chock full of haze, flashing strobe lights and insanely loud music) to the play’s final (albeit quieter) moments, the material has been given a presentation that is a bit too focused on making its audience deliberately uncomfortable. Not only is there a lot of almost inescapable audience participation, but I kept feeling that too many people watching the show were far too worried if they were going to become part of the show to fully focus on it.
In addition, you may also be sometimes strangely titillated (two of the male actors strip completely while the entire seven-person cast appears at least once in some state of undress) and, unfortunately, often confused, given both the non-linear nature of Harry Gibson’s script and the cast’s extremely strong Scottish accents, which renders some of the dialogue completely unintelligible.
Still, what you will miss by not going to see “Trainspotting Live” is a display of remarkable technical creativity (let’s not even discuss how or why that ever-present toilet looks like that disgusting) as well as some of the most committed and astonishing acting currently on the New York stage. The equally magnetic (and remarkably brave) Andrew Barrett and Greg Esplin make you root for the show’s essentially nice (but completely misguided) protagonists, Marc Renton and Tommy, even as you doubt that either man will find everlasting serenity or happiness. Tom Chandler is appropriately menacing as the mean-hearted Begbie, Tariq Malik is quietly compelling as the aptly-named Sickboy, and Lauren Downie, Pia Hagen and Oliver Sublet offer complete and complex characterizations in a variety of supporting roles.
Indeed, if you are from the “less is more” school of theater (or life), “Trainspotting Live” may not be the show for you. Conversely, if you find standard Broadway fare too conventional for your tastes, you might get addicted enough to this unusual work to even make return visits.
By Brian Scott Lipton
Visit the Site
Roy Arias Stages
777 8th Avenue
Neighborhood: West 40s
New York, NY 10036