4 stars

Based on Joe Simpson’s mountaineering memoir and adapted by David Greig, Touching the Void is a story about the adventures of Joe and Simon to Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. As the double meaning of the title infers, the significant factor of the play are the feelings of the characters and their fear of being and dying alone. Since people with more ordinary lives also share these emotions, focusing on them so deeply makes the play relatable, distinguishing it from other survival stories.

The direction is innovative and creative utilising minimal props. The tables and chairs in a bar become a foothold, the base camp and rocks on a mountain road. The simple set design draws attention to the details of other parts of design such as their mountaineering equipment and clothing, giving the play a realistic feel. The audience’s perspective changes as they freely alter the orientation of the stage. In some scenes, they see the vastness of the mountain from the foot as Sarah, Simon and Richard look up to the ceiling of the theatre, while in others, the auditorium is set inside a crevasse, as Joe is hung from the top of the theatre with a single rope.

The astonishing cast of four is the crucial element that makes the complex plot, which relies greatly on the audience’s imagination, work. The hysteria and sorrow provoked by Josh William’s (Joe), Fiona Hampton’s (Joe’s sister) and Angus Yellowlees’ (Simon) performances contrasted with Patrick McNamee’s (Joe’s companion), which brought comic relief to the play and laughter to the onlookers. Joe and Simon’s life-threatening journey is represented on an immense metallic and paper structure elevated on stage which represents the different parts of the mountain. They accurately enacted techniques used in mountaineering recreates the scene in a way that reminds the crowd of visual effects one usually expects from films.

With its originality and inventiveness, Touching the Void allows the audience to explore Joe and Simon’s extraordinary adventure in a thrilling and emotive way as it spotlights the limits of human tolerance when in peril.