Touching The Void director Tom Morris has described mountaineers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates as ambassadors from the “threshold of death”.
Both men were involved in a disastrous descent from Siula Grande in 1985, which involved Yates severing a rope holding the injured Simpson, sending the climber plunging into a stormy abyss.
The stricken mountaineer survived and wrote a memoir about the infamous climb, which has been turned into a play running in the West End.
Director Morris has called the men “shamanistic” for their encounters with a “mythic” world of the dead during their near-fatal Peruvian expedition.
He said: “When you meet Joe Simpson, or Simon Yates, and you talk to them, and you know that they’ve been in this extraordinary situation… it’s as if you’re meeting an ambassador from the very, very threshold of death.”
Morris, who dealt with death in previous project Warhorse, believes his latest directorial challenge gives audiences a glimpse of life in its purest form, and the ill-fated climb has a philosophical profundity.
Speaking at the Duke of York’s Theatre, he said of the close encounter with death: “I think all of our lives are illuminated by that. We’re drawn to it, because we want to know what we would do in that situation.
“We want to find out what human behaviour is when all of the nonsense is stripped away, when it’s just the essence of being, of existing, of surviving.
“There cannot be any bullshit, there is just existence. In that sense climbers are like poets, they go to the extremes of experience, in order to report back to the rest of us, so we can understand.”
Touching The Void is running at Duke of York’s Theatre in London.