Touching the Void

3
Seen at the Bristol Old Vic
By Robert Iles

The story of Joe Simpson's amazing struggle against the odds and of his colleagues on the disasterous adventure makes for a great book and a compelling film but how would such a mountaineering story transfer to the stage. The story unfolds in the mountains of South America, a deep ice crevice, a vertical ice wall the top of a mountain in a storm - difficult scenes to transfer to the minds of the audience as most of us will have few experiences we can hang the images on.

This is an ambitious project that almost makes it. I say almost as I felt at times the technicals got in the way of the emotions - too often I found myself watching the magnificent set, the clever climbs and the Escher-esque changes of perspective instead of buying in to the characters - despite the best efforts of a talented and hard working cast (and strange stage crew!). I also didn't buy in to the need to explain all of the climbing terms - it felt a bit like the Archers when they try to shoehorn an agricultural message into the storyline - I was quite happy to work with the gist of what was said rather than worrying if I had correctly remembered the dictionary definition. These things put a veil between me and the story preventing me fully engaging as the fascinating and heroic tale unfolded.

Ok, those were my doubts, and perhaps this just wasn't to my taste, but in the end this is compelling theatre and a real example that there is no story that cannot be told on stage. Pace was good throughout and the acting (and climbing), despite the style, completely credible - somehow, though, it just didn't grab me.

p.s. Just a brief postscript - we were treated to a sneak walk around the new developments at the Bristol Old Vic that will be launched on Sunday 23rd Sep and open from 08:00 on Moday - it is absolutely beautiful, fascinating and exciting ... open all day in future pop in for coffee, lunch, tea or dinner as well as a show, it is a magical space.


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