Trainspotting (1993) is the first novel of Irvine Welsh, in the form of short stories collection, revolving around a group of heroin addicts and their friends. It has achieved world-wide notoriety and cult status, mostly because of the screen adaptation by Danny Boyle in 1996.
“Choose us. Choose life. Choose mortgage payments; choose washing machines; choose cars; choose sitting on a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fuckin junk food intae yir mooth. Choose rotting away, pishing and shiteing yersel in a home, a total fuckin embarrassment tae the selfish, fucked-up brats ye’ve produced. Choose life.” – is the seminal quote from both the book and the film.
Mark the main character, narrates his daily life and that of his friends, through the prism of his heroin addiction. His view of the normal world is cynical and conveyed with bitter black humour. Heroin is both his escape and his destruction. Franco is his friend from school, whom Mark both despises and fears. A violent sociopath, he assaults and brutalises everybody he comes across. Tommy, another childhood friend, initially seems content to brag about his sexual escapades and drinking, but when his girlfriend dumps him, he starts using heroin to numb the pain, and it all goes downhill from there. Finally Alison another junkie, the most empathetic of the lot, she drifts through life searching for the next fix and picking fights with men that hit on her.
Inner monologues are the main narrative device and the plot even though not completely linear roughly follows Mark’s addiction, subsequent O.D. and attempt on sobriety.
The theatre upstairs at the Lord Stanley has been ideally transformed into a drug den. All-black walls, a tattered futon in the corner, 3 wooden square blocks and a wheeled, body-height, metallic frame the actors use during their monologues.
Welsh’s heroes are marginalised addicts, with sociopathic tendencies, mostly working class situated in Edinburgh with rough lives throughout. In this adaptation the characters are rosy-cheeked young actors with no hint of any accent. No make-up to give them any of the characteristics of an addict, apart from some bruises in their arms. I addition to that the text itself has been wholly adapted in “plain” English, in my opinion reducing that way its roughness and shock-factor. The text instead of cutting to the bone is just blunt. The actors fail to convince as addicts, both their technique and physique undermine them. The episodes they narrate and enact instead of shock provoking and heart wrenching, become mildly bleak and no amount of swearing can salvage them from mediocrity.
The spectator instead of experiencing the violence and despair in these people’s lives, as one would expect from the adaptation of a novel such as Trainspotting has to go through almost two hours of people trying to convince you unsuccessfully they have experienced addiction, violence and marginalisation. An ambitious idea that failed in fruition.