TWENTY years ago an in-your-face British black comedy drama film directed by Danny Boyle about a group of young people battling drugs and addiction bust into cinemas.
Such was the success of Trainspotting, that it became one of the most seminal and iconic movies of the 90s establishing the careers of the likes of Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller and Kelly Macdonald.
Based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, the story centres around a group of heroin addicts in the late 1980s economically depressed area of Edinburgh. It follows them as they try and stay off the drugs with varying degrees of success, as well as navigating their love lives and how they survive.
Now to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film’s release a stage version of the story has just opened at the Vaults in Waterloo for a limited 11-week run.
Trainsporting is an intense 75 minute production, full of passion and energy and is a no holds barred immersive experience for all those who go and see it - the audience is literally part of the show, including the notorious Worst Toilet in Scotland scene.
Against a dynamic soundscape of 80s dance music, the stories of Renton, Tommy, Sick Boy, Begbie and Alison are brought to life with humour, poetry and provocatively graphic scenes.
Not for the fainthearted, co-director Greg Esplin, who also plays Tommy, promises it will be quite a spectacle.
“I can’t wait to bring it to the Vaults,” he tells me in a chat ahead of the show’s opening at Waterloo. “It is such a great space. It’s dark, urban and gritty and the perfect place to stage the show. It also brings life back to these spaces which I think is great.
“We staged it originally in Edinburgh at the Festival two years ago and it went really well and since then we’ve taken it to Bristol and Birmingham so it’s great to be showing it here in London.”
To recreate the grit and atmosphere of the characters’ situations, the team has built a stage in the huge tunnels so that the audience is right there amongst the actors.
“It’s going to be absolutely fantastic,” says Greg. “When people come into the space they walk right into an 80s or 90s inspired rave with a bar, lights and a fabulous sound track already playing.
“They will be shown to their seats and the actors will be spread out among them and the performance space.
“We will be interacting with the audience from the off and there will be nowhere to hide - so anyone who comes to see it needs to know they are going to be part of the show, though not in any scary kind of way.
“It’s not immersive for the sake of it, only when it needs to be, but it’s quite dark and there will be graphic scenes of drug taking and so on, so the audience is there to help carry it along.
“It’s also really intense, full of energy right from the word go, and a real rollercoaster of a ride.
“But it works really well and the response we had from previous productions was great.”
And not only did it get the thumbs up from audiences, the great man Irvine Welsh did so too, something that Greg is understandably chuffed about.
“The book is iconic and this version is more like the book rather than the film but there was a real pressure to make sure it was right,” says Greg.
“We were all really nervous when Irvine came to see it as he’s such a legend but he was so lovely - he was full of praise for the show and said so many complimentary things about it. He is genuinely one of the nicest people you could meet. In fact he came to see it twice!
“There is something about the book though. It’s an utterly compelling story, brilliantly written, with fantastic characters, many of whom people will be able to relate to and it is a testament to the writing that it is still so popular.
“And of course the film is iconic with the most amazing soundtrack and it’s still being talked about.
“I’ve just finished reading Trainsporting 2 and I laughed and cried - there are not many books that make me do that.”
As well as honouring the story and getting approval from Irvine Welsh, Greg said it was also important when adapting it for the stage to show the reality of what it’s like to be a drug addict.
And while it is very graphic, he insists that it’s not done for effect.
“It’s an issue that is present in every city and it affects a great many people,” he says. “You can’t escape it.
“So it was important that we treated it with respect as so many people are dealing with it. We spent a long time with recovering addicts and other groups when we did research for the show to make it as real as possible.
“It was very humbling to work with them and hear their stories - listening to the desperation they felt and how many had been living normal lives and then something happened that led to their lives spiralling out of control and finding themselves in a crack den.
“Before I started this show I didn’t understand how it was, how they don’t take this stuff for enjoyment but just to feel OK. It’s shocking.
“So we wanted to do it properly so it’s not dressed up and therefore sometimes it’s a bit shocking for the audience who didn’t expect it to be so graphic.
“And seeing it live, played out in front of you, rather than being in a cinema really makes it hit home the horror of it and how it’s normal day to day existence for many people. We invite the audience in to the story and because we are right there amongst them it makes it difficult for them to look away.
“I think it gives those who come and see it a different perspective.
“It’s also really funny of course and there are some real laugh out loud moments.”
As well as being intense and in-your-face, Greg says it’s also full of energy and a work out for the actors who are on the go for the full 75 minutes dancing and moving about the space.
And this includes a 15 minute rave right at the beginning of each show.
“It’s a real work out,” he laughs. “We had a bit of a break from it this summer and I really missed the work out! But in doing this show I’ve never been in better shape.”
Trainspotting is on at the Vaults, Launcelot Street, Waterloo, until January 15. Tickets cost from £20. Visit www.TrainspottingLive.com or call the box office on 020 7183 5942.