Theatre

A Steady Rain

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Loading article content

Neil Cooper

****

THERE’S a serial killer on the loose in Theatre Jezebel’s revival of Keith Huff’s hard-boiled noir, first seen on Broadway in 2007, and he’s eating everyone alive. For frontline cops Denny and Joey, the murderer’s presence right under their noses is the final nail in the coffin of a partnership that dates back to childhood. Even now, in a lamp-lit room at a long table flanked by two rows of buckets, they joke they’re like 1970s TV heartthrobs Starsky and Hutch, except Denny and Joey’s double act has long since stopped being funny.

Dressed in identical sweatpants and hoodies in Mary McCluskey’s darkly brooding production, Andy Clark and Robert Jack invest Denny and Joey with a captivating intensity as old loyalties are corrupted at both a personal and professional level for both men. Blighted by personal demons and unspoken tensions that threaten to blow up in their faces, as the pair switch between their versions of the truth, at moments it’s as if they’re giving evidence to internal affairs, at others as if they’re confessing their sins, desperate for some kind of atonement.

Inspired in part by an incident involving real-life serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, there is clearly a movie full of pained silences and longing looks waiting to burst out of Huff’s script that transcends its roots for a close-up of emotional wounds. As it stands, however, the play’s strength comes through its torrent of words. As Denny and Joey’s criss-crossing monologues gather steam, they rise into a torrent of self-loathing which, for one of the men, at least, finally subsides into a raging calm in a quietly thrilling experience.

Trainspotting

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

****

WHEN Gavin Jon Wright’s hapless Spud embarks on his ampetamine-fuelled job interview in front of red drapes at the opening of Gareth Nicholls’ main-stage revival of Harry Gibson’s 1994 adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel, it’s a telling pointer to everything that follows. Like the play, there is no filter in the mad rush of tragi-comic truth that Spud blurts out. This is a signifier too that this isn’t a play in the conventional sense, but is a series of loose-knit routines that only make full sense when lifted off the page and delivered in a full-on Leith Walk demotic framed by designer Max Jones’ strip-lit breezeblock wasteland.

While ostensibly the story of 1980s dole queue junky Renton and his drug buddies, there is less of a gang mentality here than in Danny Boyle’s film version, which Gibson’s script pre-dated by two years. Nicholls’ staging of the series of solos, duologues and ensemble-based vignettes instead knits together a tapestry of need for an entire community, with a lively first-night audience greeting every sketch-like scene like an old friend.

The mood changes in the deathly hush of the first act’s end, and the strung-out cold turkey fantasia and desperation of a disenfranchised underclass that follows becomes increasingly darker. While there are clear concessions to audience expectations, the cast of five, led by Lorn Macdonald as Renton, with Angus Miller as Sick Boy, Chloe-Ann Taylor as Alison and Dianne, Owen Whitelaw as Begbie and Wright as Spud make the material their own. Twenty-two years after its first staging, and with austerity biting deeper than ever, Trainspotting now looks fiercely of the moment.