Introduce Yourself(ie): 10 Questions with Trainspotting Live Star and Co-Director Greg Esplin
Greg Esplin makes a must-see off-Broadway debut as Tommy (a young man in Edinburgh who spirals into a heartbreaking heroin addiction) in off-Broadway's jaw-dropping, immersive stage adaptation of Trainspotting Live! But beyond co-starring in the production, the Scottish actor is the Artistic Director of In Your Face Theatre and the original producer and director of the now internationally acclaimed Trainspotting Live!
BroadwayBox gets to know Greg a bit better as he talks about the trial and error of bringing Trainspotting to the stage, advice for first-timers in Edinburgh, and his favorite piece of onset graffiti.
1. You go on such a ride as Tommy. How do you prepare pre-show and how do you come down post-show?
Yeah, it’s a pretty quick down fall for old Tommy but a story I love telling and it’s very important. Honestly, just with a really good physical warm up, as the part is quite physically demanding (especially on 2-3 show days). I try to just have a bit of fun before the show and keep it all light hearted and not carry any stress or my own problems with me on stage. When I’m finished for the day—1 or 3 shows—I tend to go even just for one drink with some of the cast or some friends. I don’t like going straight home after such an intense show. It’s nice to unwind and get yourself thinking about other things afterwards.
2. What’s a memorable audience interaction you’ve had here in NYC?
There are two that stick in my mind, both very different! The first one was a—I’d guess upper class —couple who walked out about 7 minutes in shouting, “DISGUSTING! You should all be ashamed of yourself, you’ll be hearing from our lawyers!” I mean, that’s absolute comedy gold as far as I’m concerned. People who are more concerned with or offended/effected by a bit of nudity and the ‘C word’ rather than the issue of addiction probably shouldn’t come along.
Another one is a girl at the end of the show was waiting in the lobby in floods of tears. She just wanted a cuddle and to say how much she valued the show and the message, that was really touching and it’s the reason why we do what we do.
3. Beyond starring as Tommy, you were the show’s original producer and director. What was your process in finding how Trainspotting could work on stage?
By failing. Trial and error is the only way. We tried promenade on two levels, in a hall, it used to be so much longer with twice the cast size. We just had to keep trying and failing until we got to the staging we have now, which I think is almost perfect! Yet saying that, it is always evolving in little ways which helps keep it fresh.
4. Was there a particularly difficult moment to bring to the stage? How did you overcome it?
I suppose the most difficult one for me is the Begbie and June domestic abuse scene. It’s so graphic that a lot of people can’t handle it and they walk out during it or right after. It wasn’t a case of overcoming it but rather realising that we were willing to have people walk out because this scene is so relevant and real. It needs to be on stage and not dressed up or played down because if we do that then we are not being true to the text.
5. What’s been your proudest moment as artistic director for In Your Face Theatre?
Having Irvine Welsh say that this is the best way to experience Trainspotting more than the book or the film was incredible. He’s such a legend that guy. Also, having two casts running simultaneously at the Edinburgh fringe and off-Broadway is very surreal.
6. What is something you learned about addiction during the company’s research process?
For me, it’s been a never-ending learning process since I started this production almost five years ago. Addiction really can affect anybody, regardless of who you are or where you come from. We need to have empathy for people who are struggling because it’s an illness. It can drive people to do things that are so out of character because withdrawal can be so unbearable. I think the more we educate ourselves about it, then there would be less stigma surrounding it. I lost an uncle at 43 years old to alcoholism because he went completely cold turkey (no alcohol) and his body couldn’t handle that. It’s such a scary illness.
7. What’s been your favorite part about living in NYC for the run?
The city is beautiful. The live music scene is absolutely incredible and it’s so diverse. The creative community here is so supportive and there is just so much going on. I must admit, just having air con on the trains already puts it ahead of London for me! It’s funny because it’s probably the only place I’ve ever been where it actually is how it looks in the movies—it really does never sleep. I’ve loved living over in Brooklyn and getting to explore different neighbourhoods and meet different people; it’s the people who make it such an amazing and exciting place to be.
8. Do you have another dream adaptation for IYF to tackle?
Already half way through writing it and that’s all I can say! I would love to do Fight Club one day but unfortunately it’s not available...yet.
9. What advice would you give someone heading to the Edinburgh for the first time?
Get involved come rain or shine. Get out and take it in. It still remains my favourite city in the world. The live Scottish traditional music tucked away in the old pubs is to die for. Walk everywhere, you’ll miss so much if you take the bus, it’s such a small city anyway. Go to the Leith waters and Portobello beach outside of the centre and enjoy that. Go to Milkman coffee shop and sit in the window and watch the world go by while drinking some of the best coffee in the city. If you’re going for the fringe festival then don’t plan too much. There is so much to do and see that it really is worthwhile having free days to just say yes to something last minute. Go grab a seat in ‘Sandy Bells’ early before it fills up and watch some world famous folk music. You’ll never be able to do it all in a weekend but that’s what’s great, every time you go back you will find something else to fall in love with.
10. What’s your favorite piece of graffiti on set and why?
I’ll just leave this picture, and I don’t think I have to really add anything to it...
Don't miss Greg Esplin sensational performance as Tommy in Trainspotting Live at off-Broadway's Roy Arias Theatres through October 20.