Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting has never been for the faint of heart. The raw look at addiction and ennui in 1980s Edinburgh was first a book, then a play, then a cult film by Danny Boyle that starred Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller. Large portions of each incarnation are hard to stomach.
But L.I.P. Service doesn't have time for your squeamishness. Inside the ICT rehearsal studio in Irving, the air is thick with haze and smoke. Lasers flash, cans of cheap beer are cracked open by surly bartenders, and nubile forms writhe in dark corners, groping, fighting, dancing, and sometimes even snorting white powder from tiny packets.
A particularly steamy make-out session begins in front of the mismatched tables and chairs where the small audience is clustered. Clothes are rapidly shed, and the show officially begins.
Director Ryan Matthieu Smith makes it clear early on that the only concession his production makes is that it keeps its audience voyeurs. As close as they come, and as many (fake and real) bodily fluids fly, the actors never truly invade your personal space. That's important to remember, because this production is so relentless that it's easy to forget most of the time it's only a play.
Carrying the brunt of the 95-minute show is Dustin Simington as Mark Renton, a deceptively charming narrator who's driven by finding his next hit. He and his friends spend their time cooking up and hooking up, drifting — violently, at times — through life. Unlike the film, the play doesn't have much of a plot other than Mark's Sisyphusian task to get clean, so it falls to the actors to make each of their stories interesting.
Connor Wedgeworth brings the heart as sweet Tommy, who only turns to heroin when his girlfriend (Jad Brennan Saxton in one of several roles) dumps him. Caleb Pieterse is a right arse as the sadistic Begbie, while Jason Villarreal is sass and serenity combined as the DJ known as Mother Superior.
In a brilliant bit of casting Lauren Mishoe plays Sick Boy, projecting masculinity without falling into the realm of male impersonator. An angelic Erika Larsen looks entirely too clean as Alison, especially compared to the rest of the greasy-haired, raccoon-eyed cast, which is filled out by several ensemble members scattered throughout the studio.
Before even entering you're ominously cautioned by a handwritten sign spelling out the debauchery that waits inside. It's just the start, and don't say they didn't warn you.
L.I.P. Service Productions' Trainspotting plays through August 20 at Rudy Seppy Studio in Irving.