Touching the Void – Review by Michael Antwi

Touching the Void is a play written by David Greig, based on the book by Joe Simpson. It is an incredible true story based on two climbers who were about to attempt to climb a giant mountain named Suila Grande in the Peruvian Andes. It went according to plan but then as they were climbing down Joe broke his leg and Simon did not know what to do, so he had to cut the rope.

It made me feel quite emotional at times, I thought Simon had left Joe to die and being in the same shoes as Simon I did not know what I would do. I think the audience would have thought about the same question that I was thinking about.

The key theme of Touching the Void is life and death.

Some of the set was built from chairs and tables on the walls and the other main set was the mountain which was made out of papier-mache attached to poles and suspended from the rigging. The actors had to attach their carabiner’s onto the set and climb the set, it must have been difficult for the actors who played Simon, Sarah and Joe, they must have had climbing experience. I felt like it was a real place and I felt lost in the story, I cared about the characters especially Joe, you were actually there in the place at the time.

Lighting glinted off the fake snow when it fell and it felt real, a white light was also used to create the atmosphere of real snow on the mountain. When the cast performed a repeated back and forth movement piece the lights on the stage enhanced it, because the stage was dark at the back and light at the front. The effect was like a dreaming motion in someone’s mind, Joe coming in and out of consciousness.

The lighting changed when Joe was crawling on the floor at the end, there was an image of the mountain and there was an orange glow in the tent that symbolised Joe coming from death toward life.

The stagehands moving the set were dressed in parka’s and the hood was pulled up over covered black faces, they looked like ghosts or demons, this symbolized Joe being between life and death, because he was supposed to die but survived.

There was a mixture of pre-recorded and live sound in the play, for example the wind was pre-recorded but they used the rhythm of the words ‘Hit-hit, kick-kick, pull, breath’ to create the atmosphere of climbing the mountain.

Music was also performed live by the actors and a jukebox playing recorded music from the 80’s which was when the play was set, so it helped create the atmosphere as well as being Joe’s favourite music. Sarah sang this annoying song called ‘Brown girl in the ring’ which helped Joe to survive whilst he was dragging himself toward the camp.

I thought the actor that played Simon was very good, because he used body language to explain what was going on and the way that he portrayed the characters emotions was outstanding. The actor playing Joe was also believable particularly the way he physically used his body to show how much pain he was in.

The relationship between Joe and his Sister Sarah was central because when he was moving through the glacier and the camp he thought that his sister Sarah was real – but she was a figment of his imagination driving him forward. His love for her was his reason to live.

The emotional journey taken by the audience was very confused by Simon cutting the rope. He was like a cold-blooded murderer, but the whole audience understood why he had to do it, because Joe wasn’t tugging the rope and if he had stayed on the mountain he would have died. I felt strongly conflicted was he a good guy or a bad guy?

Touching the void was a powerful, emotional story I thought that it was amazing, well staged, and the acting was true to life. I would recommend going to see it or reading the book. It made me feel that you should never give up and always try your best to succeed.

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