By Isabella Fraser
George Mallory was a well-known mountaineer who died attempting to climb Everest, on his third expedition there with the British team. Mallory: Beyond Everest is a one man play about his life, created by writer and performer of the piece, John Burns.
The story behind Mallory’s life is interesting; however, in condensing his whole life into a one hour performance piece, writer Burns has given himself an uphill challenge in this ambitious attempt, by trying to cram too much into one story and space.
C Nova’s Studio 2 is compact and the intimate staging area is jam packed with props and set, including a blackboard on an easel. While the majority of these props are used, unfortunately the usage tends to detract from the storytelling: the props are often unnecessary and at times, distracting. The blackboard in particular is an odd choice and adds nothing to the piece.
The show is punctuated with scene changes and light changes. While some of the light changes are effective in changing mood, within the first two minutes there are several changes. There is much information given and a new position for every scene. The different changes and staging of moments seem excessive and over-directed, which means it can be challenging at times to follow the path of the story. Excerpts from Moby Dick could have been useful philosophical tools in a less scene-heavy piece, but unfortunately added to the overall confusion.
Because this is performed by the writer, it is difficult to work out whether the direction from duo Melissa Paterson and Catherine MacNeil, or the writing, are at the root of the problems with this piece. There is potential within the play. With far fewer scene changes and much simplified staging, the narrative would be allowed to speak for itself.
There is a highlight in this play: the original music from Bob Pegg which flows through moments is soothing and evocative. In many ways, the mood set by the music says more about the sense of ‘The Mountain’ than is conveyed through the punctuated text.
Mallory: Beyond Everest runs until 25 August (not 11) at C Nova on Victoria Street at 15.00. Running time is 1 hour.