The story of my play. Mallory – Beyond Everest

Heroes Fall

Hearts are Broken

But Dreams Never Die

A Tale of Life and Death on the Roof of the World

Me as an older Mallory

Me as an older Mallory

Book tickets here

PREVIEW **** Thurs 26th June, Little Theatre Nairn 8.00 pm

Was George Mallory the first man to climb Everest? It’s 90 years since he and Sandy Irvine vanished into the mist on their final push toward the unconquered summit of Everest. They were never seen alive again and passed into mountaineering legend. Whether they were the first to climb the mountain, thirty years before Hilary, is a debate that still rages. What if Mallory had survived the mountain, what ghosts would have haunted him?
A few years ago I was curled up in a small tent in the middle of a Cairngorm blizzard, trying to coax some warmth into my feet, when I began to wonder what it must have been like for Mallory high on Everest waiting for dawn and his push for the summit of the world’s highest mountain. I was only a day’s walk from my car and an easy road back to comfort, he was risking everything high on the edge of the known world yet all mountaineers are brothers and I like to think I could understand something about how he must have felt.

I realised I knew very little about this man and so, when I made it out of the snowdrifts, began to read and research about him. I became fascinated by his complexity and it was when I read Wade Davis’ book, Into the Silence, that Mallory the man really began to take shape.

Andrew Irvine, left, and George Mallory

Andrew Irvine, left, and George Mallory

Davis’ portrayed a man torn between his obsession to climb the mountain, his love of his wife and his duty to his country. After the Frist World war Britain desperately needed a hero to restore its pride and Mallory became the man on who’s shoulders the ascent on the mountain, and the nations pride, rested.
I decided to bring Mallory back to life in a one-man play as this was something no one had ever attempted before and Mallory seemed to me to be someone who cried out for better recognition, a true hero of our time and a man who should not be forgotten.
I was really lucky that Bob Pegg, of Mr Fox fame, agreed to provide some original music for the performance. Bob is now equally well known both as a musician and a storyteller and it was great that he agreed to provide us with some music after seeing a preview of the show.

Bob Pegg

Bob Pegg

I contacted the British Film institute who have agreed to allow me to show original film footage of the 1924 Everest Expedition. The Epic of Everest, directed by J.B.L. Noel, combines original film footage of the 1924 expedition that has been digitally restored. It was great to see original footage of the first expeditions The film no longer has the jerky old time cinema look of early silent movies and gives a genuine impression of how these men moved amongst these gigantic mountains.

See a clip here
I’ve tried to provide an insight into the mind of a man torn between his love for his wife Ruth and his relentless, burning desire to be the first man to reach the highest point on earth. I wanted to tell a human story with humour and passion.
This will be my second Fringe play. My first, A passion for Evil, about the legendary occultist Aleister Crowley, had good reviews and was popular with Fringe audiences in 2010. The play went on to be developed by the Lowry, Salford and toured the UK. Whilst the play is about one of the world’s greatest mountaineers, it will speak to anyone who has an interest in adventure sports and challenges us to consider why we risk everything, our life and our love, for such fleeting triumphs.

I’ve always been fascinated by men like Mallory. He was prepared to face incredible dangers and unimaginable hardships to climb the world’s highest mountain.
Today, with Everest almost a tourist attraction, it’s hard for us to understand the savagery of the challenge that faced the early pioneers. With little more than tweed jackets, stout nailed boots, and fur sleeping bags they braved the intense cold, sparse oxygen, and the ever present dangers of avalanche and fatal accident to set foot where no human being had ever been.

In my play Mallory has survived what he called simply “the mountain” and, as a man in his sixties, knighted by the king and revered by the establishment, looks back over his life and loves. He is tortured by the loss of Sandy Irvine, the young Oxford oarsman he admired so much and ultimately led to his death.

2 responses to “The story of my play. Mallory – Beyond Everest

  1. All the very best with your Play, John. The story of Mallory and Irvine still fascinates all of us mountaineers.Way back in 1969 when I was a lad I was privileged to spend five weeks trekking through Nepal to Everest in the company of Eric Shipton who as you will know well had a very close association with Everest in the years before WW2. We had a number of discussions about Mallory: did he or didn’t he reach the summit. Eric was convinced it was possible he could have done. He was particularly convinced that Everest could be climbed without Oxygen (nobody had achieved that feat in 1969). One of his arguments was about the way that the partial pressure of Oxygen varied along with the barometric pressure. If your play comes south of the border do let us all know. All the best, Andy

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