Posts Tagged ‘ Irvine Welsh ’


T2 Trainspotting
Admittedly I was initially nonplussed by the original Trainspotting feature due to being more impressed by the novel and preferring subsequent stage productions- particularly those at the Edinburgh Fringe over the last two years- but time has mellowed my original weary scepticism and I now wholly appreciate that it is a landmark film of its time; those are the very qualities which clouded my first impressions incidentally.
Anyway who could resist a film which boosted the careers of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed bringing them to the attention and subsequent prominence to a whole new generation?
This sequel, re-introducing the original characters from Irvine Welsh’s book, therefore has a lot to live up to and this is it does to some extent although it offers nothing new nor any clear insights into what returning to your past actually means.
Re-assembling the original cast of Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewan Bremner and Robert Carlyle as well as the superfluous addition of Kelly Mac Donald – whose scene is so incongruous it feels as if it is there simply for the sake of giving her a scene. Helmed once again by Danny Boyle this gives the film some additional kudos and a sense of the past merging with the present. However I felt now, as I did with the original production, that Ewan Mc Gregor is all out to sea with his performance and once again is the film’s weakest link.
However both Ewen Bremner as Spud and Robert Carlyle as Begbie are excellent in their roles and Jonny Lee Miller always has his charisma to help him through but the real star of the film is Edinburgh itself.
Never has the city looked so appealing on-screen and even in the more desperate scenes when the city’s underside is used to show its deprivation. It also helps having local characters such as Bradley Welsh in the role of a sauna owner cum gangster type and Garry Fraser as second unit director as well as a host of Edinburgh faces as extras giving the whole thing a local flavour. Even the much maligned trams make what must be their film debut.
The plot, for what it matters, revolves around Mark Renton’s ( Mc Gregor) return to Edinburgh and the people he ripped off for thousands twenty years before. The following action revolves around him setting up another scam and being pursued by an unforgiving Begbie who let’s say hasn’t let twenty years mellow his anger or his thirst for vengeance.
To anyone nostalgic for the thrills the original film provided at a time when ‘Cool Brittania’ ruled our pop culture and Trainspotting flew the Scottish flag high and proud then I would wholeheartedly recommend this film as it will awaken the lost youth of those days. On its own merits though T2 Trainspotting can hold its head high although the remix of Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life at the films dénouement is unnecessary; some things should be left as they are and need neither remixed nor a sequel!
One thing that irked me however was if the film is set twenty years on from the original film which was set in the mid eighties why was there such a proliferation of smart phones which were nowhere near as ubiquitous around 2005-2006 as they are in this film. Just a minor detail but a detail nonetheless!



Here for their second Fringe outing, their 300th performance to be totally precise, are the very aptly nameD In Your Face Theatre company with their hands on, fast paced and no holds barred –what is a hold anyway?- adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.
Gavin Ross excels as Renton in a performance which goes beyond mere acting and totally inhabits his role as the main character, Renton. The rest of the cast is no less impressive –some of them play several roles and seem to reappear in a different guise seconds after leaving the stage in a previous incarnation-making this a true ensemble production and success!
There is a bit of Trainspotting fever around the capital at the moment anyway as the original cast and director Danny Boyle have only just very recently left the city after filming the sequel at various city locations. It has been no surprise to see the likes of Ewan McGregor or Johnny Lee Miller hanging around The Omni Centre or the Central Bar in Leith so the return of this exciting and high-octane adaptation- by far my personal favourite beating the film version hands down- could not be better timed.
Opening with a frantic rave scene-complete with audience adorned in glowstick armbands- the atmosphere is ramped up to eleven before a word of dialogue is even uttered. The dialogue when it comes is coarse, brash, crude, antagonizing and thoroughly entertaining. The cast weave in and out the audience terrifying some, horrifying others but never ever boring any of them. It is a confrontational performance which never allows the audience’s attention to wander.
At times the pace seamlessly slows down a little but it is no less compelling. The sheer melancholy and sadness that lies at the heart of any junkie becomes apparent and the tragedy that lies at the heart of it all –an essential component of Welsh’s book- exposes itself from behind all the macho braggadocio which dominates the stance of the male characters the bulk of the time.
An essential must see at this year’s Fringe –it is already selling out in advance fast so I recommend booking tickets as soon as possible- you really don’t want to be the one to say you missed out.
Trainspotting is at Assembly Underground at 18.00 and 20.30 until August 29th(not 16th and 23rd). Due to popular demand some late night dates have been added. Check at Box Office for details.


This high-octane, immersive and no holds barred adaptation brings Irvine Welsh’s defining novel Trainspotting back to its home city of Edinburgh. Stripped of its more familiar cinematic sheen it is a gutsy, highly visceral production from the aptly named In Your Face Theatre group who more than live up to their moniker from the outset.
Starting with a rave scene complete with glow sticks and fluorescent arm bands the action is pretty full on from the start. The familiar characters are all there: Sick Boy, Allie, Spud, Tommy, Begbie and a tour de force performance from Gavin Ross as Renton. Never holding back whether it is shit smeared sheets and bodies or full on nudity, this show is definitely not one for the faint hearted.
More compelling than the film version the squalid surroundings-a specially constructed venue- captures the desperation which defines the protagonists and their various habits. Familiar scenes are still there however including the speed induced interview and let us not forget the retrieval of an opium suppository from the world’s filthiest toilet bowl which is even more disgusting without the film version’s Brian Eno ambient track to sweeten the pill.
The cast are all extremely confident and weave in and out of the audience popping up and even exchanging insults whenever and wherever you least expect them to. It is like some beautiful form of chaos at some points.
Definitely a major player at this year’s Fringe Trainspotting is hard to beat in its sheer verve, adrenaline and chutzpah. Irvine Welsh would be more than proud with what they have done here!
Trainspotting is on at 6.00 and 8.30 August 14-17, 19-24, 26-31


Just An Observation Friday  September 27th


  Today sees the official release of Jon Blair’s interpretation of Irvine Welsh’s so called ‘un-filmable’ novel Filth. Having already seen the film at the Edinburgh premiere, with the author, director and lead actor –James McAvoy- in attendance, I can reliably report that although the first twenty minutes or so do their best to capture this un-filmable quality by being unbearable and occasionally unwatchable it eventually turns a corner and  becomes a far more inspiring and rewarding experience.

 Once settling down into a more coherent narrative to become less shaky, haphazard and disjointed it actually emerges as a good movie. Until this point it falls into that most of annoying of things, a ‘try-hard’ experience’ and although the triumvirate at the centre of its creation warned us before it played that this might be the case, in its early stages it was still something to endure. A full review of the film can be found here.

 There was of course the prerequisite after party in the Caves following the screening and for obvious reasons- the characters Welsh surrounds himself  with in his home city fuel many of his literary characters and in reality many are more colourful than their written about counterparts- I had higher expectations of this than the film. It was however a pleasant experience but brought home that what once would have been a raucous affair probably extending itself over several days was neatly wrapped up and over by midnight.

The most riotous thing to happen all evening was someone being thrown out for smoking upstairs-rock and roll!- and the sight of a twelve year old boy masquerading as James McAvoy before the realisation that said twelve year old was in fact McAvoy himself.

Running around like a pre-pubescent scamp with purloined and illicit cigarette behind his ear it was hard to coalesce the hard core character of the film we had just seen with the diminutive character –in bios he claims to be 5’7’’ which is the same height as me although I have decided by this reckoning I am now 6’2”- scampering round the venue looking aggrieved and harassed. Only his arrogance remained from his screen persona. His young appearance contrasted squarely with most other attendees whose more ‘mature’ approach and behaviour indicated that middle age had caught up with their rock and roll lifestyle or perhaps the fact it was on a Monday evening meant that such behaviour would simply be too disruptive to their well organised and structured weeks. Age catches up with all of us in the end I suppose and in some ways it is a good thing.

 Talking of growing older there has been much discussion this week of the raising of the retirement age to sixty eight. As usual the loudest dissenters would appear to be those in the teaching profession. Although I understand that this is a highly stressed profession- I know this as they never shy away from telling us this at every given opportunity- it can only be more discouraging for a worker in MacDonald’s or some other fast food chain say who is now looking forward to another few years shovelling chips and burgers for an unappreciative clientele who are essentially as faceless and anonymous as they are.

 Personally I reckon I will have to work until I drop and I know several others who are also in this boat and after watching Channel 4’s ‘Fabulous Fashionistas’ last week wherein six women of seventy plus showed us all how good and rewarding growing old can be.  Each and every one of them still works and actually embraces it as a worthwhile thing which goes someway toward keeping them young in their approach. Apart from one former dancer who now teaches dance there was not one teacher among their ranks. Just saying!

 Last week I mentioned I had put my central heating on and am happy to announce that was a temporary measure and a slight rise in temperatures has postponed this need for a week or two yet. It did gladden me however that Labour plans to introduce capping prices on fuel companies in their election manifesto. Other parties should follow suit as the increases introduced over the last few years –which in 2009 and 2010 housed tow of the coldest winters in living memory- were ludicrously high and financially crippling to many households. Matters were not assisted by there not being much of an improvement during the summer months-this year’s heat-wave aside- which often found many reaching for that dreaded heating switch in a bid to keep warm at a time generally considered to be of a more temperate climate.  The fact we live in Scotland never guarantees this however and it will be interesting if this issue raises its head during independence debates.

This weekend sees Neu Reekie 39 light up Summerhall and the last weekend of September. The line up includes Billy Letford, The Wellgreen, Linden, Professor Elektric Al and Pumajaw none of whom I am familiar with so I am expecting to be bombarded with a whole new set of experiences by the end of the evening, I am sure I will not be disappointed.


Just An Observation Friday  September 20th


 Well the central heating is on whilst a more regular glance at TV schedules and upcoming cinema releases indicate that my annual hibernation mode is kicking in. A refusal to discuss the Festive season until at least December-despite media interference and instigation- is still in place though and shall remain resolutely so as long as is humanly possible.

 Talking of TV schedules this week has seen two outstanding and inspiring programmes ‘Fabulous Fashionistas’ and Marianne Faithfull on ‘Who Do You Think You Are’. With the youngest of the participants- Faithfull- of these broadcasts weighing in with a hefty sixty six years behind her what is perhaps most surprising was the volume of attitude, verve, youthful spirit and dynamics on display which showed most of their younger contemporaries up as lacklustre and older in spirit if not in years.

 ‘Fabulous Fashionistas’ was in fact a revelation; focussing on six women who having ignored the vagaries and demands of the fashion industry, their peers and the ageing process summoned up enough energy to kick a society- which denigrates and ignores those of a certain age- in the teeth and give them more than a race for their money. In fact these women –numbering amongst them an 87 year old dancer, a 70 plus model and a ninety year old MP-were an inspiration, encouraging those who think youth is an essential component to satisfactory living that growing older is nothing to be ashamed or scared of but instead something to even look forward to.

 It is certainly a controversial thought in a world where we are sold images of models, celebrities, musicians etc who seem to be getting younger by the year that age is perhaps an advantage rather than a disability. None of these six women has bowed to the rigours of growing older, with one claiming that it allows her more freedom and the main objective is not to let one iota of traditional ageing into their lifestyles. Of course occasionally this is unavoidable but their attitude towards such setbacks was encouraging as they considered them merely that, setbacks, and something to be overcome rather than dwelt on.

 Marianne Faithfull is in the same age category as these women but unlike them has lived her life in the spotlight since the age of seventeen. Her mistakes, triumphs, addictions and sexual shenanigans have been exploited, frowned upon, eulogised, revered and mythologized many times over but this programme looked at her background, or more correctly that of her mother Eva Sacher- Masoch.

 As interesting a life story as that of her more famous daughter and a baroness-how authentic this title actually is was raised for discussion during this programme- Eva had fled Berlin in the thirties due to her progressive thinking and hatred of Nazi doctrine eventually settling in Austria. Having Jewish ancestry was always a problem to her at this horrible time for Jews in history and her position in Vienna was always insecure  and never more so than when it was invaded by the Russian Red Army where she and her mother were both raped by soldiers.

Faithfull drank all this knowledge in and eventually got beyond her mother’s mythologizing of her status and background-something Faithfull has embraced and decried in equal measure herself over the years- gaining some family ground to set her own footing upon.

 What was also interesting about this programme is how Faithfull herself has approached the ageing process. Always a great beauty in her younger years that is now a distant memory due to the lifestyle she pursued. When set against her contemporaries of the sixties era such as Lulu, Cilla and Sandie Shaw initially she is not wearing well when measured against their botoxed and coiffed appearances but whilst they have settled into an old age of conformity and showbiz relics Marianne remains relevant. Instead seeing her wandering the Streets of Vienna wrapped up in a parka she had more beauty, style, grace and poise than those three could muster up in all their years combined. Her beauty comes from her knowledge, movement and class and spending two minutes in her company would probably be a more rewarding experience than any number of hours spent with her former contemporaries.

At the end of the day she will always having had the advantage of having lived the life of Marianne Faithfull whilst the others will have had to have make do with the lives of Lulu, Cilla et al. I know which I would prefer.

 It seems to be premiere time both in and about Edinburgh this week. First up was ‘Sunshine on Leith’ a musical set to the music of the Proclaimers. Never a fan of the band I must admit I remain sceptical and my trepidation is not assuaged by statements such as ‘You will be surprised just how many Proclaimers songs you actually know.’ Er, no I wont! I can tell you now that is precisely two and that is merely because I have been force fed them over the years-usually by hearing them nightly from the Lady Boys tent situated yards away from my house every Festival- and can’t say it is something I want to explore much further although it may be a bit like the time I went to see Mamma Mia and realised within five minutes that the film was preposterous, the acting diabolical but after admitting this I sat back, switched off and enjoyed the proceedings anyway. Reluctantly!

 Much more appealing is the film version of Irvine Welsh’s ‘Filth’ which premieres on Monday. This is more likely to be up my street and if previous premieres and parties surrounding Welsh’s output are anything to go by it certainly looks like it will be well worth investigating.

 What is disappointing however is that both these premieres are being held at the bland, faceless, soulless monstrosity the Vue Complex in Leith Street rather than the more traditional Cameo Cinema. Snubbed during the Film Festival, where the Cineworld complex was favoured, these are lean times for this cinema which is probably my personal favourite in the city. No longer opening its doors for screenings during the daytime I hope this does not signify the beginning of the end for this last of the independents-along with the Dominion- in Edinburgh. Although it may not be as high tech or modern as the newer cinemas it still manages to retain something of a true cinematic experience and it would be unfortunate if this was the latest victim to be lost to corporate blandness.