1953: The Race for the Summit & Pitch

‘Hillary and I may not share the same blood, but we share the same spirit.’

Om Raj Raut brings the story of Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who accompanied Edmund Hillary to Everest’s summit, to a wider audience in this one-man performance. The stage is small and spartan, just a tent at base camp and Tenzing himself, but Om Raj engages the audience with ease in these constraints.

Raut uses the space well; the gangway becomes the perilous ascent to the summit, and the front row end up holding part of the crucial climbing rope. Tenzing’s family life is brought into focus; he muses on how they might never have a body to mourn due to the infamous ‘dead zone’, which has claimed so many Sherpas before. Buddhist tradition also pervades the show, with use of Nepalese prayers and flags and Tenzing referring to the mountain as Chomolungma or ‘Holy Mother’.

1953 felt like it could have been a bit longer – at under 40 minutes running time it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome! However, it succeeds in stressing how vital the Sherpa is to such risky expeditions, and how they’re not just bag carriers but bearers of knowledge vital to an explorer’s success.

*** [C cubed, 24-27 Aug]


‘The future is queer, because the present is.’

With the Qatar tournament in recent memory and the Women’s World Cup final last weekend, November Theatre’s Pitch is a very timely show. Five members of an LGBTQ+ football team reminisce about how the ‘Muddy Studs’ formed, how couples in the team got together despite one being an ‘unlucky charm’, and one new trans recruit’s journey to finding acceptance in a sport that’s so often hostile to him.

Falling somewhere between spoken word and theatre, Pitch peppers its storyline with quotes from LGBTQ+ pro footballers and the FA. The facts and figures aren’t pleasant listening; it’s unthinkable that the FA banned women from playing in 1921, and the reminder of how Justin Fashanu was treated was sobering to say the least. The fictional team just want to play football and express queer joy on the pitch, but being met with slurs and other abuse in the mainstream teams means carving out a space of their own to look out for each other. Bill’s speech particularly moved me, especially given the current hostile environment for trans people in sport.

No football knowledge is required to enjoy Pitch, though as a fan I appreciated the unique way the Muddy Studs’ match commentary was delivered. The set being created with chalk and benches as the show progressed was cleverly done, and the plot flows well. It would be good to see the plot developed a bit more before it tours nationwide, as I’d love to see the characters’ backstories fleshed out.

The cast invite everyone to a casual kickabout on The Meadows afterwards, which is a lovely gesture. Pitch is a clear, convincing and accessible plea for a place on the pitch for everyone regardless of gender identity and sexuality.

**** [Pleasance Above, 25-28 Aug]

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