Review- Touching The Void- The Bristol Old Vic and Hong Kong Arts Festival


By Nicole Garbellini



Something unbelievable happens when humans find themselves under extreme duress. As Sigmund Freud put it, the preservation muscle is the strongest muscle in the homo sapiens; when facing heavy situations, human bodies turn into survival mode and almost inevitably human minds begin to wander in the back of our memories and imagination, finding themselves in a place similar to a dream. 


If we think about the Thai rescued that happen recently, or the Chilean mining accident, we feel deeply connected to these stories of survival as they do scare us but fascinate us at the same time. Thinking of being alone in the dark, freezing weather trapped in a cave with a broken leg would terrify anyone, and a simple question that everyone would ask is “What would I do if it was me?” 


Tom Morris, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic and director of the play, together with playwright David Greig, made wise use of this feeling of fear and fascination to an audience absolutely enthralled by this tale. 


The story of Joe Simpson and his co-climber Simon Yates tale is well-known, as the best-selling book and the award-winning documentary film are in fact based on the true story of these two friends who took up the journey to Siula Grande in the Andes.  Joe Simpson’s journey shows how, when his co-climber Simon Yates is forced to cut their link rope, Simpson crawled, hopped and slid miles back to base-camp with a broken leg.


The actors were absolutely stunning in the portrait of the various characters, and I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Joe (Josh Williams) and his sister Sarah (Fiona Hampton), who was the undisputed lead in his mind and led him to fight for his life. 

The only choice I did not quite grasp was the two singing sequences that make this an unusually literal example of a rock musical.


The set was a great piece of sculpture, and it created the necessary tension and gave a sense of jeopardy almost all throughout the play- except for the moment at the pub when, alas, a table collapsed and crashed on stage, keeping the whole production on hold for 15 minutes. 
This really shows that professional theatre or not, accidents like this can happen to the best of us. 


Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: ---


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