Wednesday, October 24, 2018

'Touching the Void' adapted by David Greig from the book by Joe Simpson

24 October 2018

In 1985, while climbing in the Peruvian Andes, Joe Simpson slipped down an ice cliff and broke his leg. His climbing partner Simon Yates attempted to lower him down the mountain but inadvertently lowered Simpson off a cliff. Suddenly the rope tying the two men together threatened both their lives and Yates took the horrible decision to cut the rope to save himself while Simpson plunged to almost certain death. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that Simpson didn’t die, as his incredible tale of survival against all the odds became an award-winning book and film. Now playwright David Greig and director Tom Morris have adapted ‘Touching the Void’ for the stage, in a joint production by Bristol Old Vic, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Royal & Derngate Northampton and Fuel, which we saw in Northampton on Saturday. Their creative approaches to dramatising Joe Simpson’s interior monologue and staging the mountaineering are very innovative and impressive – helped by Ti Green’s amazing set which creates a very theatrical version of the story. The cast of four actors take on some incredibly physical challenges and David Greig’s framing of the tale, beginning with a wake for Simpson in a Scottish climbers’ pub, is very clever. And I liked that the play’s musical soundtrack used tracks chosen by Joe Simpson when he appeared on ‘Desert Island Discs’ in 2004. But I felt they missed a trick by ending the play with the ‘revelation’ of Simpson’s survival rather than going on to explore the subsequent relationship between him and Simon Yates and that painful question of whether he should have cut the rope.

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