Trainspotting is undoubtedly a modern classic within Scottish literature. Part of Edinburgh’s historic culture, the films are treasured to many fans all over the world and recent play adaptations have brought the story alive again to new audiences. So, what could possibly be next for this riotous adventure? In the National Theatre of Scotland’s (NTS) new Scenes for Survival short, an extract from Irvine Welsh’s book is explored via British Sign Language (BSL) in Strolling Through the Meadows.
The excerpt follows Spud, Renton and Sick Boy as they wander through the Meadows at the height of Edinburgh’s Festival (which will sadly be universally missed this August). When Renton and Sick Boy begin to torment an innocent squirrel, to vex some passing posh ladies, sensitive Spud gets thoughtful and emotionally deep as he questions the nature of vermin.
Now you may question why the piece is titled Strolling Through the Meadows yet filmed in Seoul, South Korea. It’s worth noting that the NTS’s motto is in fact “Theatre Without Walls,” and there’s no time like the present to embrace that. With theatre buildings being out of bounds, we must remember that theatre can take place anywhere, and whilst the location just about passes as The Meadows, imagination is always a magic ingredient in theatre.
Brian Duffy’s performance is marvellously energetic. Intense in emotion and animalistic in physicality, he has a really engaging but edgy quality that Trainspotting fans should recognise and adore. As Spud, he is lovable but wildly unpredictable. Performing in BSL not only creates a widely accessible piece for audiences, it also animates and emphasises the already funny Scottish text in a new voice that will be different to every individual.
Erratic but clever, Davey Anderson’s direction and Ace Mahbaz’ filming creates a fast-paced energy which keeps performer and viewer hand in hand. For example, playing with proximity to the camera, the viewer feels like they’re part of the wild chase, often perceiving the situation from the point of view of the squirrel – it’s a really dynamic touch.
Whilst Renton and Sick Boy see the squirrel as vermin, Spud comments that the posh ladies may see them as vermin. Spud briefly contemplates “Whit hope is thir?” if we don’t treat other living creatures with kindness. Strolling Through the Meadows is a fun and nostalgic jaunt with some much-loved characters and Spud is right – what hope is there if we don’t all look out for each other as life slowly becomes a bit more normal?
Strolling Through the Meadows can be viewed on the National Theatre of Scotland’s website.