by Abi Hack

 

 

It is fair to say that The King’s Head Theatre and In Your Face Theatre took the term immersive to a new level with their dynamic, engaging and outright shocking depiction of Irvine Welsh’s classic novel, Trainspotting. This 70-minute production was more than just a brilliant piece of immersive theatre; it was an experience that needs to be felt and I thoroughly advise you to book your tickets before it’s too late!

Theatre Review: Trainspotting @ The Loco Klub

From the moment you stepped in the door of The Loco Klub you became part of the experience; a result of the actors' complete lack of inhibition, and the clever direction of Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin. After showing your ticket to the women at the door, a glowstick was placed on your wrist and you were lead through a “rave” where the performers were dancing about the space and taking it in turns to guide the unsuspecting audience to a seat, correction, perch spot; seats were a luxury and this further enhanced the feeling that you had accidently stumbled into a crack den.

 

In Your Face ‘work hard on knocking down the fourth-wall so that the audience are truly encaptured within the performance’, and it was the success of this aim that truly immersed the audience in the experience.

The traditional ‘fourth wall’, found within theatre, describes an imaginary barrier that separates the world of the play from the world of the audience. King’s Head and In Your Face took a sledgehammer to this metaphorical wall, spat and defecated on its fragments and for good measure, gave it the middle finger.

 

I myself faced minor humiliation when Gavin Ross (Mark Renton) came up behind me, grabbed my head and then proceeded to mimic a thrusting motion that left me feeling somewhat violated. This was nothing in comparison to some audience members who were clambered upon, licked, knocked about (in moderation), shouted at, and covered in what can only be described as “toilet juice”. 

 

My personal favourite was when an unsuspecting woman had Ross’s bare (and “faeces” covered) bottom repeatedly shoved in her face as he pretended to wipe the poo from his bum and genitals; the man sitting in front of him was careful not to turn around for fear of having his eye poked out by Ross’s flailing penis. This is definitely not something you find in everyday theatre. Fortunately, nudity was used cleverly throughout the piece and prevented crude moments from feeling gimmicky; something that even the most accomplished companies can fall prey to.

Private parts and bodily fluids aside, the grungy setting of The Loco Klub (near to Bristol Temple Meads train station) was the perfect space to create the drug and sex culture central to Welsh’s book. The environment was made to feel like anything could happen, and with no room to shy away from the casts approaches, the audience were left feeling as vulnerable as the tortured drug-addicts in the play.

 

Props were limited to a sofa, a toilet and a table and chairs. These were scattered about the room to create different settings within the one space. With the audience dispersed amongst each set and around the edge of the space, this was an interesting take on “theatre-in-the-round” (where audience members completely surround the staging area), and enabled the audience to flit between participants and voyeurs of this fast-paced theatrical explosion. 

Clancy Flynn’s lighting further brought the space to life with the flashing lights replicating the “club” experience whilst the contrast of the dim lighting enhanced the feeling of being in a crack den.

 

Ross (Renton) and Greg Esplin (Tommy) were an unstoppable force throughout this production, as both actors put every ounce of energy and skill into the conviction of their characters. They had the audience hanging on to their every word, and took us on an emotional journey that dragged us between the peaks and troughs of laughter and tears.

 

Chris Dennis successfully channelled the psychopathic nature of Begbie, whilst Calum Barbour was at his strongest when playing Johnny Swan (aka Mother Superior); dressed only in underwear and a ragged dressing gown, he epitomised the seedy nature of the drug dealer.  Erin Marshall (Alison) and Rory Speed (Sickboy) also proved great assets to the show, and although Jessica Innes (June) committed to her multiple roles and provided support within the ensemble, her acting did not quite reach the high standard that was set by the rest of cast.

Even though this piece should come with a warning that says, ‘not for the faint-hearted, audience members are at risk of losing consciousness’ (a claim proven by the audience member that fainted half-way through the piece), do not let this put you off or you risk missing out on something truly unique.

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King's Head Theatre

In Your Face Theatre

Credit: Andreas Grieger

Credit: Andreas Grieger

Credit: Andreas Grieger

Credit: Andreas Grieger

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