Review: Touching The Void
HIT, hold. Hit, hold. Kick, push. Kick, breath.
There’s a rhythm to climbing, one that playwright David Greig captures with a passion in this stage adaptation of Joe Simpson’s real life struggle to survive the deadly attentions of the Siula Grande mountain in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.
Greig’s script seldom falters as it drives the action ever onwards and upwards, teasing and twisting and frequently mining a dark vein of humour. It’s a narrative that is ideally complimented by Ti Green’s sparse set design.
Dominated by an angular climbing frame, atmospherically lit by Chris Davey, it allows the four-strong cast to bring the action to life with little more than a collection of tables and chairs.
Opening in the Clachaig Inn, Ballachulish, where Sarah, Simon and Richard have gathered for a wake, it’s not long before Simon is teaching Sarah, sister of lost climber Joe, how to attack even the most daunting rock face; in this case, scaling the proscenium arch with the aid of the Clachaig’s rickety furniture doubling as a mountain landscape.
In flashback, Joe’s story is revealed; his meeting with fellow climbing-nerd Simon and want-to-be writer Richard, a student on a gap year eager for an adventure that will become the subject of his first book.
Always looking for the next challenge, Joe and Simon bring Richard along to look after their Base Camp as they attempt, Alpine style, a new, never before climbed route. Just two men and a rope with minimal supplies.
Their reward, if they succeed, a short article in the British Alpine Journal. Should they fail...
Having conquered the mountain, when Joe shatters his leg on the descent at 19,000ft, even his seemingly endless passion for the great outdoors appears unlikely to aid his survival, or for that matter, keep Simon alive.
Each life counterbalancing the other.
In the roles of Joe and Simon, Josh Williams and Edward Hayter give robustly physical performances, as does Fiona Hampton, a boisterous and fiery Sarah.
Although Tom Morris’ direction drags towards the end of the second act and a strange disconnect develops between Richard, Simon and Joe, Touching The Void remains a very watchable testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Run ends 16 February