Preview: Trainspotting, Artsdepot, London, then touring

Ten years on, just as shocking
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The Independent Culture

Harry Gibson hit the bull's-eye when he adapted Irvine Welsh's 1993 cult novel Trainspotting for the stage, even before the 1996 Ewan McGregor film came out. When he read Welsh's story about the gang of friends - Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie - who get caught in a cycle of drug addiction and career headlong towards self-destruction, he saw its potential as a stage hit.

First performed in 1994 and revived in 1995 at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Trainspotting reached the West End in 1996 and Broadway in 1998. These days, Gibson's adaptation is performed all over the world by different theatre companies. Now, Gibson is to direct "the play that shocked the Nineties", as it embarks on another grand tour of the UK, 10 years after its London premiere. (Gibson has done stage versions of three other Welsh books - Glue, Filth and Marabou Stork Nightmares.)

"I was a play-reader at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. There was a need for new shows," Gibson recalls. "I went into a bookshop in Glasgow. The owner told me that there was one last copy of a book called Trainspotting. He went and got it out of the staff lavatory. It was full of speeches that you could rip out and hand over to actors."

Life was never the same again for Gibson, whose production contains nudity and scenes that may shock. "It is in-yer-face theatre," he says, "which goes way back to Steven Berkoff. Train-spotting is obviously pretty shocking, watching scenes of domestic violence and actors pretending to be drug addicts on stage."

Gibson describes how Trainspotting changed his life: "One minute, I was back at home living with my mother - living on tea and biscuits. The next, I was walking into an estate agents to buy a flat."

He continues: "These days, I'm not expected to make nice theatre, but horrid theatre. I'm also in a position to retire. I really want to move away from theatre to write about history."

19-21 January (020-8369 5454), then touring

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