Citz study in reworking Welsh invokes real highs and lows
Bodily fluids and gross-out choreography seep through Gareth Nicholls' production, adapted from the classic Irvine Welsh novel and play by Harry Gibson. It's a rich study in nihilism, pulsing to New Order's classic 'Blue Monday', and in more reflective tones by the time The Clash's 'Straight to Hell' kicks in. But this is like a great cover version, where familiar tones are rendered modern without missing out on why the original is so revered.
This is largely due to a stellar cast: Lorn MacDonald's hollow-eyed Renton is an eloquent if messed-up shapeshifter, spitting out karaoke monologues; Gav Jon Wright a twitchy, endearing Spud. But it's the self-aware voice given to Alison by Chloe-Ann Taylor which provides a neat feminine counterpoint to all the capricious misogyny and machismo – her restaurant revenge on a group of obnoxious privileged students is gleefully portrayed; while the scene of losing her baby silences the entire room.
For a play so powered by ecstasy and smack, it is the still moments of ennui and vulnerability that give the play real heft. This is no mere time capsule, but a timeless morality tale. When Owen Whitelaw's swaggering Begbie spies his drunken father in the street, it's easy to see the child in his wounded eyes. The scene is devastating in its tacit awareness of dysfunctional patterns emerging. The first half is set up as a shitty brown scatological comedy; the second half as the big comedown, pulling the rug from beneath the audience. Nicholls' curve-balls are endlessly inventive, integrated into Max Jones' split-level set. It could be the ultimate antidote to jukebox musicals.
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 14 Sep-Sat 8 Oct.