London Theatre Review: Touching The Void

Posted on 13 December 2019

The survival story at the heart of Touching The Void is one most climbers have likely discussed in alpine bars, chucking that grave hypothetical back and forth – “what would you have done in Simon Yates’ position?”

After three decades, David Greig’s adaptation of Touching The Void – based on Joe Simpson’s best-selling memoir – has finally ascended into the West End, boosted by the bold ingenuity of Tom Morris (Artistic Director at the Bristol Old Vic). It's Morris’ latest production since a well-known outing for whinnying puppets, called War Horse, and it is a similarly dynamic, bold and powerful piece of theatre.

Now showing at the Duke of Yorks Theatre, Touching The Void employs daring set-pieces, stunts on wires and soaring music to deliver adrenaline-driven drama that will leave you bolted to your seat. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more sinew-tightening second act in the West End. Just try to outlast the onslaught as lead actors Josh Williams (Simpson) and Angus Yellowlees (Yates) crawl over and dangle at intervals from a triangular hunk of frost-bitten scaffolding, suspended by wires from the ceiling. At times calling out and at times losing hold and hanging over the stage, both actors offer up a tour de force of physicality, high stakes drama and quieter lulls. All the while there’s rarely a moment to doubt these two men are really pinned to the snow-capped summit of the Siula Grande.

It’s no small feat to accomplish this kind of immersion and unify the audience in conflict with the elements. Snow is hurled inwards from all directions, the sound of icefall echoes through the auditorium and the stage floor evokes that immense yawning void below. It’s fast-paced and gruelling stuff, drawing from deep wells of primal emotion, whilst also defying the stark laws of club and fang through a very human story of survival for the sake of a loved one – the irritating, gnawing feeling that Joe Simpson can’t desert his sister.

Don’t let the wire tricks and snowstorms distract you from the warm centre of this production though. There you'll find two siblings exploring the extent of their love for one another and the bond that urges them back together. One fights  from the brink of disappearance and death. The other from a life without her brother. Love them, hate them – the central theme is a powerful one and it reminds us that family is that glittering fleck of sunlight, when all other lights are snuffed out.

Pick up West End Touching The Void tickets from £18!

Book your tickets for Touching The Void today with performances running until 29th February 2020.

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