The world premiere of Red Kettle Theatre Company’s production of Climb was an exhilarating and exciting piece of dramatic theatre that took an audience on not one but three journeys to Everest. By using projected images, a white screen cloth, two travelling stage trucks with climbing frames on them, a half dozen or so crates, four excellent actors, two committed directors who used a variety of theatrical effects to create not just the illusion of a gigantic mountain but a reality of human hopes, human expectation, human dreams and told a story with style and creativity. And what a story – a story of hopes, fears, terrors and a wonderful love story of climber George Mallory and his love letters to his wife, Ruth. It never climbed into cliche, but kept the narrative before the audience and explained in words and some powerful stage images the heights that some people aspire to.
In the realisation of that story Red Kettle and directors/writers Ben Hennessy and Eoin Lynch not only embodied the spirit and nature of climbing but they also embodied and make tangible the spirit that encourages and drives people to make theatre and excellent theatre at that.
Even in the foyer where you were offered bullseye sweets in bowls you got a sense of an expedition, taking 200 lbs of such sweets up Everest. A beautifully measured prologue introduced the audience to a modern take on the possibilities of Mallory’s achievement – did he or did he not reach the summit? Jamie Beamish’s soundtrack was like another vital character in the story. His composition chased dreams and terrors and was romantic for the wonderful scenes between Mallory and his wife. Their casting was beautiful and you could feel the passion, the longing and the intensity of their conflicting loves. Tom Conway, as George Mallory, was excellent and Serena Brabazon was beautiful and playful and pensive and gave the story an anchor to the earth, a base camp to some wonderful and beautiful emotions. They both lit up the stage with inner feelings.
The cast of four worked extremely hard to create mountains, snow gales, terrors, travels, sea journeys, even a funny horse race on three crates. Storms, avalanches and howling gales were dramatic and exciting and sometimes poignant and sad. Making the romantic letter interludes gentle and loving and all these emotions were beautifully realised.
Eoin Lynch was excellent playing several roles as did others and Nicholas Kavanagh shone with splendid characterisations, even a non-speaking old man, bound for India, had great impact.
This production runs until 25 October; go and enjoy the wonderful theatrical journey and experience the heights of dramatic presentation.