George Mallory – One man play


Andrew Irvine, left, and George Mallory

Andrew Irvine, left, and George Mallory

I’ve been reading a lot about the earliest attempts on Everest and particularly about George Mallory.  I think it would make a great one man play and I’m researching right now and looking at getting some funding to pull the thing together.  I’m really excited by the prospect and I think it would generate a lot of interest.

If you don’t know about Mallory the background is briefly this:  On the 8th of June 1924 George Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappeared into the mist a few thousand feet below the summit of Everest.  They were never seen alive again and their disappearance has sparked one of longest running controversies in mountaineering.  Were Mallory and Irvine the first to reach the summit of the world’s greatest peak?  We will never know the answer and the evidence is contradictory.

So far I see the play a bit like this.  Imagine if Mallory had not died on the mountain, if he had returned alone, Irvine having succumbed to altitude sickness on the descent.  What would Mallory have become, what ghosts would have haunted him?

Hailed as hero by the press and public alike, knighted by the Queen, he has grown wealthy from his writings and his public speaking.  Now almost 60 he limps on to the stage, his difficulty in walking a legacy of the frostbite he endured on what he refers to simply as the mountain.  As Mallory begins to speak his mind returns to the awful hardship he endured on Everest and to the horror he witnessed in the Great War.  Now he is wracked by self doubt, tortured by the thought that, obsessed with climbing the mountain, he led Irvine to his death.  Are such sacrifices ever justified?  What did the loss of millions of men achieve in the war to end all wars, what did Irvine’s death achieve?

Mallory is transported back to Everest as he tries to understand what drove him to take such risks and to push the far less experienced Andrew Irvine beyond his endurance.

In 2010 I took my one man play about Aleister Crowley to the Edinburgh Fringe and I’d like to build on that experience.  I’d be interested to hear what people think of this idea.  Is it something you would like to see?

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2 responses to “George Mallory – One man play

  1. I’m not sure really – it’s probably a good idea for a play but I think the scenario you propose has actually happened many times with pairs or groups of mountaineers as, when it gets to the really big stuff, the summit becomes more important than the team/participants in most groups’ eyes. I can’t say I’d be any different if I was up there either as I can be a bit too summit-orientated and, once I’ve set off, it’s very hard for me to turn back…

    I tried to get into a book about Sandy Irvine which was lying around at work but I’m afraid I’ve ground to a halt – too much non-mountain stuff in it and it seems that I’ve turned into the type of person who can only read stuff with mountains in! 😮

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