Touching the Void

Duke of York's Theatre
St Martin's Lane, London

Previewed: 9 November 2019
Opened: 14 November 2019
Closes: 29 February 2020

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Show times
Monday at 7.30pm
Tuesday at 7.30pm
Wednesday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Thursday 7.30pm
Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday no show

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Touching the Void

A major stage production of Joe Simpson's best-selling memoir - adapted for the stage by David Greig - Touching the Void in London for a strictly limited season

Joe Simpson's extraordinary struggle, aged 25, for survival on the perilous 20,814ft high Siula Grande mountain in the Peruvian Andes. As he teeters on the very brink of death and despair in a crevasse from which he can't possibly climb to safety. Alongside this struggle, is the appalling dilemma of his climbing partner Simon Yates, perched on an unstable snow-cliff, clinging onto the rope tying him to the severely injured Joe. Unable to recover Joe from the void, Simon is faced with the agonising decision to cut the rope that binds them. What happens when you look death squarely in the face and how do you find the strength to crawl back towards life?

Adapted for the stage by David Greig and originally seen at the Bristol Old Vic in 2018, this production transfers to London's West End for a strictly limited season.

The cast features Josh Williams as 'Joe', Fiona Hampton as 'Sarah', and Patrick McNamee as 'Richard' - who are all reprising their roles from the original staging. In the West End they are joined by Angus Yellowlees as 'Simon'. Directed by Tom Morris with movement by Sasha Milavic Davies, designs by Ti Green, lighting by Chris Davey, and sound by Jon Nicholls.

When this production opened here at the Duke of York's Theatre in London's West End in November 2019, Clive Davis in the Times said that "the ice stings your fingers, and the wind blasts your face. Yet you know it is all an illusion. If any play exemplifies the power of theatre, it has to be this stunningly inventive piece, which takes an audience up a mountain to the brink of death... there's scarcely a superfluous word in this extraordinary piece." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph wrote that, although "we know full well that the climber - Joe Simpson - lived to tell the tale... the remarkable thing about David Greig's adaptation is that this is immaterial: the ordeal is relayed with such a sure-footed sense of pace, suspense and adrenalised anguish that nothing feels certain until the end... it beats most action films this year." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail praised this "thrillingly original spectacle that's also highly informative about 'Alpine-style' mountaineering... As Joe, Josh Williams puts in a faultless display of screaming and writhing as he drags himself out of danger and into his lucrative future as a writer and motivational speaker." Nick Curtis in the London Evening Standard described how "director Tom Morris and writer David Greig have turned this epic but lonely ordeal into a compelling piece of theatre." Aleks Sierz in the i newspaper explained how "it's an odd mix of the vertiginous and the clumsy," adding that "Tom Morris's production gets good work from his four-strong cast... As an affirmation of the human spirit, Touching the Void is great, but it doesn't quite conquer any summit." Neil Norman in the Daily Express thought that "Tom Morris's production of David Greig's play is perhaps the most enthralling version of the story... The atmosphere is enhanced by terrific music, sound effects and lighting. Exhausting but rewarding."

When this production was originally seen at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre in September 2018, Ann Treneman in the Times highlighted that, "much to my amazement, that we knew the outcome made no difference at all. This is a masterful use of stagecraft as well as mind-play... Tom Morris directs with the impeccable timing of a thriller... I am not interested in mountain climbing, yet I was gripped... this is about loneliness, loyalty and the overpowering desire to survive. That's what makes it great theatre." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph hailed how "Tom Morris's most accomplished project since War Horse takes you inside the agony and the ecstasy of Joe Simpson and his climbing partner Simon Yates's successful ascent and disastrous descent of the Siula Grande - but mainly the agony... Our imaginations are harnessed by sound effects and physicality that's both pretend-effortful and also gruelling." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail commented that "it makes for an interesting artistic challenge, but is a tad unsatisfying... The real void here may be playwright David Greig's script."

David Greig stage adapations seen in London's West End include Dr. Seuss's The Lorax at the Old Vic Theatre in 2015 and 2016; Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2013; and Herge's The Adventures of Tintin, with Rufus Norris, at the Playhouse Theatre in 2007.

Tom Morris' London directing credits include Carl Grose's stage adaptation of Victor Hugo's The Grinning Man at the Trafalgar Studio in 2017; Helen Edmundson's stage adaptation of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2011; and, with Marianne Elliott, Nick Stafford's stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse for the National Theatre at the Olivier Theatre in 2007 and transfer to the New London Theatre in 2009.

"The director, Tom Morris, has a great sound designer in Jon Nicholls, who creates an aural landscape of relentless, battering high winds that force the actors to shout to be heard. Chris Davey's lighting is also ingenious: when Simpson lowers himself down into that icy abyss, he slides away from us to the back of the stage in a fading light, looking back one last time. It's not the big screen, but it is surprisingly effective... The main scenes on Siula Grande employ a huge paper-covered steel-frame pyramid with the actors clambering about on it, shouting themselves hoarse. Greig's play also asks probing questions about the draw of mountains -- or the desert, or the sea, or any such vast wilderness that can enrapture you and kill you... This is a show that is both physically compelling and deeply thought-provoking." The Sunday Times

"Having crushed his leg to splinters in a fall down a crevasse, his companion had no choice but to cut the rope and leave him to a certain death. In an act of unbelievable endurance, Simpson crawled out and dragged his body all the way back to base camp. Tom Morris's production is big on adrenaline as the actors swing from what looks like a three-dimensional snowflake of lethal fragility. A wind-lashed, ropetaut piece of storytelling, I came out thrilled and frostbitten." The Mail on Sunday

This production was originally seen at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre (previewed from 8 September 2018, opened on 17 September 2018, and closed on 6 October 2018, followed by a national tour) in a co-production with the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, and the Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton. The original cast featured Josh Williams as 'Joe' and Edward Hayter as 'Simon', with Fiona Hampton as 'Sarah', and Patrick McNamee as 'Richard'.

Touching the Void in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 9 November 2019, opened on 14 November 2019, closes on 29 February 2020