In an interesting departure from the Melbourne Theatre Company’s usual fare of big budget, razzle dazzle productions, Touching the Void is a refreshing change for the company. The gritty realism, unique set and simple staging allows for both the story and the actors at its heart to shine.
Based on the book by Joe Simpson, this autobiographical story of survival in the Andes is at times gripping, charming and laugh out loud funny. The humanism brought by the cast is phenomenal, Lucy Durak in particular shines as Joe’s sister Sarah and the sibling dynamic between Sarah and Joe (played by Joe Klockek) is spot on, brimming with the kind of sarcasm and dark humour only afforded to those closest to us.
The mountain set that scales the heights of the Sumner Theatre by Andrew Bailey is truly remarkable and combined with Katie Sfetkidis’ lighting gives real depth to the icy mountain and the those that dare climb it.
At times it’s like watching an action movie (the book was adapted in 2018 to a docu-drama) and the narrative has all the qualities of a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. The audience is immediately transported to the top of the Andes, as Joe and his climbing partner Simon (played by Kevin Hofbauer) attempt a new path to the top of the mountain. In what could have been awkwardly dull or perhaps pantomime-like in the wrong hands, Hofbauer and Klockek take the audience on a journey of the frighteningly real realities of mountain climbing in edge of your seat action.
In what begins as an awkward wake for Joe, the story quickly evolves into the need for survival. As Joe attempts to make his way down the mountain with a plethora of injuries, he holds onto his reason for living, step by agonizing step. Touching the Void is an incredible story of survival in the bleakest and most treacherous of environments. The moments of comedy come from Karl Richmond whose base camp minder is the epitome of every woke bro you’ve met, and his naïve character provides relief from the never ending peril of Joe’s decent.
The one act play is an interesting choice to open the 2022 season, but as usual the MTC have absolutely nailed it, bringing their unique flair to the gritty story, and casting it beautifully. After two years of stress, fear and isolation, Touching the Void and its themes will be more than relevant to many audiences.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
Touching the Void
based on the book by Joe Simpson | adapted by David Greig
Director Petra Kalive
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner | Melbourne VIC
Dates: 17 Jan— 19 Feb 2022