6 highlights of watching Trainspotting at the Fringe – with my Mum
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Taking your Mum to the theatre is a completely normal thing to do. Unless it’s a fully immersive production of Trainspotting that is, writes Siobhan Smith

Needless to say, adult content follows…

“I was shocked, and I wrote the f*cking thing!” said Irvine Welsh.

“Contains full frontal nudity, very strong language, scenes of a violent and sexual nature and drug/needle use,” warned the website.

Oh great, full frontal nudity and scenes of a sexual nature that shocked Irvine Welsh. “I know”, I thought to myself, “I’ll take my Mum for her birthday…”

Now, my Mum loves Irvine Welsh and probably introduced me to Trainspotting. By no means am I suggesting that she is a prude. But sometimes you have to think about these things a little bit. Who really wants to witness ‘full frontal nudity’ and ‘scenes of a violent and sexual nature’ unfold in front of you, in a 20ft by 20ft square room, with your Mum. On her 59th birthday.

Me, apparently.

Approaching the door to the underground rave scene, we were each handed a glowstick and promptly shoved onto makeshift seats (read: wooden pallets on the ground). Nineties dance classics pumped out at what I would imagine is the upper limit of any sound system.

Inside, the words ‘c*nt’, ‘junkies’, and every other profanity imaginable were emblazoned all over the stone walls in sprawling graffiti.

The Shamen’s ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ blaring, my Mum and I exchanged a half-excited/half-terrified glance as we watched the Trainspotting cast bounce about the underground bunker, convincingly off their chops on theatrical ecstasy.

With Tommy grabbing my pint to take a slurp out of it, and Renton drunkenly falling on top of several audience members, we were completely immersed in the experience from the off.

Along with everyone else in the room, we nervously averted our eyes when Begbie approached the audience, starting fights with some “wee p**fs” in the front row, and asking two “foosty fannied bints” what they were staring at.

It was hard to believe that the needles in front of us weren’t real, that the sh*t in the infamous toilet scene was surely some sort of chocolate concoction, and that the convincing blowjobs were merely being simulated.

Some moments that stood out as being particularly great mother/daughter bonding material were as follows:

1. When Diane reveals her boobs, two minutes into the production

As the music dies down, and the majority of the cast disappear, we are treated to our first taste of the aforementioned nudity. A wasted Diane (and it is so convincing that again, it’s hard to remember that she is but acting) pulls down her top and her bra to reveal what’s underneath, in full. She struts around the room, talking excitedly about the wonder of her nipples, making full and unashamed eye contact with the audience the whole time. And it is marvellously awkward for everyone involved. I don’t know where to look but it certainly isn’t going to be at my Mum.

(The thing to remember here is that none of this is on stage. It is right in your face. Literally, right there in your actual face.)

2. When Laura performs incredibly convincing oral sex on Tommy

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Sitting approximately six feet from a grubby looking old sofa, whilst a scantily clad woman demands in terrifying fashion that someone “takes her up the arse” is an interesting experience at the best of times. Aware that it is part of your Mum’s birthday treat only serves to make that even more… interesting. Wearing stockings, suspenders – the full lot – Laura then proceeds to carry out an incredibly realistic blowjob which Tommy does not hold back on making clear he is enjoying.

Happy birthday, Mummy dear!

3. The dirty sheets scene…*

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The above mentioned sofa was the setting for many an upsetting scene throughout the production. Next up, and perhaps the most disturbing of all, was watching Renton wake up and discover that he had “messed” himself. And badly. Feeling around under the covers, he withdraws his hand to reveal a lot of brown, sticky looking matter. In typically immersive fashion, he then bursts his way through the audience trying to find a towel to clean himself up. Which he does completely naked, obviously. Genitalia at head height, I’m pretty sure that one of his balls brushed my shoulder. And I wish I was joking.

*In the movie and book, this scene is with Spud but for the purposes of the play, it was Renton.

4. When Sick Boy and Alison inject heroin and have what can only be described as an orgasmic reaction

After being presented with a stark naked Renton, I genuinely didn’t think things could get much more awkward in the ‘scenes of a sexual nature’ stakes. Well, let me tell you – I was wrong. Interestingly, one of the most uncomfortable scenes to watch was Alison and Sick Boy ‘shoot up’ right in front of us, in a very convincing way. The needles looked real, the setting felt real and their reaction was so convincingly real that it almost felt as though you had intruded on one of the most intimate moments a person can have. Watching them both writhe around in ecstasy, with the audience in complete silence was incredibly affecting. And incredibly awkward. The best kind of awkward. Me and my Mum are really bonding at this point.

5. That toilet scene

Potentially the most eyeball-burning moment of the film; watching ‘that’ toilet scene unfold in real life is ten times worse. Whilst I had previously regretted our proximity to the sofa, upon seeing Renton empty his guts into a suitably decaying toilet bowl in the other side of the room, I was nothing short of relieved. After realising that he has now lost his previously acquired opium package into the depths of the toilet bowl, he rolls up his sleeves and goes in. After a messy expedition to retrieve the ‘precious suppository’, he emerges – arms covered in faeces and god-knows what else. He drops his trousers and treats us to a clear view of him ramming the package up his arse, covering all those in close proximity in sh*t. At this point, I can hear my Mum boaking next to me.

Apparently, Danny Boyle used chocolate in the movie version. The only thing that kept me from vomiting during this scene was replaying that thought over and over in my mind.

6. Watching the reactions of unsuspecting tourists

Whilst witnessing a stark-naked Tommy, within touching distance of us, slapping his groin furiously in order to find a suitable vein to inject, watching Begbie brutalise his pregnant wife – so close that you can see the saliva flying out of his furious, twisted mouth – and the revelation of the dead baby and the junkie’s disturbing reactions to it, all make for highly unpleasant viewing (with or without your Mum), a special mention must be made for those poor tourists who sat with a look of sheer confusion and horror on their face the whole time.

Undoubtedly, approximately 30% of the people in that room did not have a clue what a “radge c*nt”, “likesay, ken what ah mean eh”, “take me up the arse right noo” and so on were… In fact, I’m fairly sure that at least one couple in there was expecting a play about trains…

Despite all of the awkward viewing moments, Trainspotting comes highly recommended, An excellent show with a dynamic, convincing cast who very much ‘got it’.

There’s nothing worse than seeing unrealistic Scottish junkies and drunks on stage. It can come across as very contrived, stereotypical and over the top. This however, was completely spot on.

Perhaps just consider who you would like to watch it with, before you go along.

Trainspotting, Assembly George Square, until 31 Aug, 6pm and 8.30pm / listings

Main Image: Getty Images