“Why do you go to the mountains? Because the mountains are there. Why do you have to live? Because life is there.”
The legendary adaptation of Touching The Void (TTV) for theater does not only display the creative use of stagecraft but also imparts a powerful message about overcoming the mountains of life.
Kim Seonho, who sold out theater seats on his performance dates, faced the media for the first time in nine months through the press call of Touching The Void (TTV). It took place at Art One Theater Hall 2, Daehak-ro on July 20th.
The press call was attended by Director Kim Dong-yeon, known as the “Blue Chip Director Of Daehak-ro” and full cast of the play namely Kim Seonho, Shin Sung-min, Lee Hwi-jong, Oh Jung-taek, Jung Hwan, Lee Jin-hee, Son Ji-yoon, Jung Ji-woo, and Jo Hoon. The event included a demonstration of the play where the media shared some glimpses of the actors’ performance in still photos and videos.
The actors who play as mountaineers Joe and Simon are wearing blue and green jackets, hiking bags, and head gears. The highlight scenes show the duo appreciating the majestic view of Siula Grande as well as feeling terrified about its mystery. The performers used a lot of arduous physical movements to intrepret mountaineering on stage in a distress situation. During a snowy scene, they are seen finding rocks to tie the rope and digging the snow together with an ice axe.
In another video, Joe falls from the cliff and suffers from a broken leg, screaming in pain. Besides the physical battle, he also goes through a psychological battle, talking to his noona or older sister about life and death in his mind. His noona tries hard to convince him to fight the will to live, to keep on hanging, crawling, holding, and surviving. “Keep on moving!” she commands.
Kim Seonho was one of the stage actors during the demonstration and the video shows his innate passion as a long time theator actor. He moves with confidence on stage and the quality of his theatrical voice holds power. He speaks deeply, loudly, and clearly while his eyes glitter with various emotions from delight to pain in portraying Joe. He also looks great with bigger upper body muscles and a glowing aura. His charming dimples never fail to draw attention everytime he talks or makes facial expressions.
A team interview with the media happened after the demonstration where the cast talked about the legendary moment of mountaineering on stage and expressed the dramatic truths of the characters and their preparations.
Since Touching The Void is a story about mountaineering and survival, Director Kim Dong-yeon shared that the preparation process was not an easy one due to the technical limitations on stage. But he pursued the play because the story is good and he wanted to impart the timely and relevant message of fighting the will to live to the viewers. He tried to make the storytelling more real and engaging by using immersive sound technology that stimulates the audience’s imagination and focusing on the psychology of characters.
Similarly, the actors shared that it is not easy to act as mountaineers in a distress situation on stage. Lee Hwi-jong, one of the main actors who play as Joe, talked about body pains and bruises after his performance. The proper use of mountaineering equipment has to be mastered as well, according to Oh Jeong-taek and that he continues to practice it.
When asked why he joined Touching The Void, Kim Seonho shared that he got the opportunity to fully accept the offer through his co-actor and friend, Shin Sung-min who helped him analyze the script. Besides the interesting theme on nature and the lessons that the real-life story imparts, he also liked the colleagues that he gets to perform with in this particular project and that he enjoyed the preparations and training rehearsals with them. Likewise, his co-actors praised him as the kind of actor they want to work with.
Kim Seonho also talked about his passion and solid love for theater. It is worth noting that theater actors think, act, speak, and move on stage with accuracy, clarity, and right timing without camera cuts and edits. They are trained with mastery on detailed acting as well as perfect control in delivering lines, conveying emotions, and moving around the stage. He communicated that he gets to experience a different kind of energy and vitality while performing live with an audience. He said that theater acting is joy.
On personal preparations, Kim Seonho immersed himself in doing a lot of research and watching documentaries about Touching The Void. He also studied emotions related to the situation, which is different from the written story to the actual situation, according to him. While experienced mountaineers look at the mountains with genuineness, he shared that he tried to focus more on delivering the experience with innocence.
When asked about his personal life situation and Joe’s experience, he responded that the two stories might be perceived as similar but he tried to separate his story from Joe’s. Instead, he focused more as an actor in conveying the emotions of Joe, apart from his.
Highly anticipated, many reporters gathered during the press call for Kim Seonho’s first media appearance after nine months. It has been reported that the actor humbly appeared in front of the media right after the demonstration and before the official team interview begins to express his heart to them.
Kim Seonho literally overcame a mountain of fears, standing alone on stage while holding his mic and reading his written message to the reporters. “I came out alone first because I think it is the right thing to do. I am a little nervous so I wrote down my feelings to avoid speaking incoherently. I hope you will understand with an open heart.” He began reading his letter, “I am really sorry and apologize for sharing this at the press call event. Many people worked hard from spring to summer to produce this play. I feel like I have caused a hindrance to everyone so I apologize to the team and everyone.”
Looking nervous, in tears, and pausing in between because of sobs, the reporters responded by giving him cheers and applause, according to reports. In summary, he thanked the media for coming and sincerely said sorry for causing concerns about his personal problems. He also expressed that he did a lot of life reflection during his long break and ended his message with, “I will try my best to become a better person and actor.”
Public confession of feelings is not easy for famous personalities but Kim Seonho took a brave step out of his innate warmheartedness. This sincere act is also a sign of a significant healing process.
Meanwhile, Touching The Void (1988) is based on a true mountaineering story written by Joe Simpson who gained recognition for his remarkable self-survival amid near-death situation in 1985. He climbed with Simon Yates in the 20,853-foot Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes where the duo experienced distress upon descent the snowy mountain.
The bestselling book was turned into a documentary film by Kevin MacDonald in 2003 and adapted for stage play by David Greig in 2018. The book and film received various awards while the theater production got five-star reviews. The experience was spellbinding for The Telegraph, enthralling for Variety, stunningly inventive for The Times, thrilling and chilling for The Guardian.
On May 13th, it was announced that it will be officially adapted for theater in South Korea. The play drew much attention when Hallyu star Kim Seonho was cast to play the role of Joe Simpson. It became his first acting appearance since Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021). Much anticipated, he topped the real-time search rankings on Play DB. All seats on his performance dates were immediately sold out. He received the loudest cheers on his first performance and a standing ovation that lasted 10 minutes.
Great reviews also poured out about the theatrical play, its cast, and director. Positive reactions from the audience filled the Interpark page: “Impressive acting!” “A recommended show!” “A touching performance!” “The stage is impressive!” “The best acting, direction, music!” “Passionate performances!” “A wonderful moment to reflect about life.” “The best play I have seen.” “It was the best theater experience of my life.”
Touching The Void is held at Art One Theater Hall 2, Daehak-ro in South Korea from July 8 to September 18, 2022.
Photos: The Best Play, Touching The Void Press Call