Welsh catches up with the women of 'Trainspotting'

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The Independent Online

It is more than a decade since Irvine Welsh's debut novel, about a gang of young men who take heroin to escape the banality of modern life, enthralled a generation of disaffected youth.

Now the Scottish writer, still best known for the seminal work Trainspotting, has turned his attention to the women involved in the drug and club scene of the 1990s, who hovered in the margins of his first novel.

Wedding Belles, Welsh's first script for Channel 4, is set on the same murky Edinburgh housing estates as Trainspotting, and is Welsh's first major work to feature women. The plot follows them during a raucous hen weekend, tracing their different journeys since the hedonistic days of the early Nineties.

Dean Cavanagh, Welsh's long-time collaborator who co-wrote the screenplay, said that the idea evolved out of a conversation he and Welsh had about the original book.

"Irvine and I were talking about the female characters in Trainspotting. We've already had Porno, the book that catches up with what happened to the guys 10 years later, but we haven't had the same for the girls. In the post-drugs culture, many of the people who were caning it in the late Eighties and early Nineties have since got on with life and settled down. The women have had to make big choices, and not just what drug they are going to take, but whether they want children, whether they marry or buy a house," he said.

Welsh and Cavanagh interviewed a host of men and women from Leith, and found while many of the "post-drugs culture" men had moved on to Amsterdam and Spain, the women had largely stayed in Edinburgh.

"The film shows a Leith and an Edinburgh that has changed over the past decade, it's become yuppified, although it's still got aspects of the Leith in Trainspotting," he said.

The new film follows four best friends as they prepare for a wedding, with plotlines delving into some of the characters' drug dependencies, criminality and other dark secrets.

Amanda, played by the Green Wing actor Michelle Gomez, is a successful businesswoman. Her friend Rhona (Shauna Macdonald) is a former fashion model who turns to drugs after the death of her fiance. Shirley Henderson plays Kelly, a minor character in Trainspotting, now a woman battling with her demons and upsetting all around her. And then there's Shaz, who sells Viagra to the residents of the old people's home where she works.

Andrew Newman, head of entertainment and comedy at Channel 4, said: "Welsh is one of the genuine auteurs of the past decade or so. The play is edgy, funny, dramatic and intelligent."