Om Raj Raut in the role of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay takes us on a journey up Mount Everest in early 1953 as Tenzing, along with Sir Edmund Hillary, aimed to be the first to successfully climb to the top of the mountain. Raut embodies the role of Tenzing, effortlessly conveying the sherpa’s physical and mental struggles as he deals with the extreme cold, navigates dizzying heights, and longs for his wife back home.
This last aspect provides a greater insight into Tenzing’s personal life than is usually provided in retellings of the expedition through the depiction of his wife’s fears for him. The sparse staging by director Ayusha Sanjel Chhetri also proves surprisingly effective through using mostly a tent and appropriate sound effects to convincingly depict the perilous conditions of Everest. In addition, Raut provides an inspired moment of audience interaction during a crucial climbing sequence.
Ultimately, the play succeeds in its central aim of telling a well-known British historical achievement through the eyes of its Nepalese participant, ensuring that Tenzing’s experiences are kept front and centre without omitting Hillary’s involvement. Tenzing comes across as a fully-realised human being and not merely Hillary’s guide and assistant, which is the result of Raut’s script and central performance, which fully fleshes out the sherpa so that he becomes as equally prominent as Hillary.
1953: The Race for the Summit serves as a powerfully engaging account of Sherpa Tenzing’s journey that is enhanced by not only its well-written script, but also its compelling lead performance.
1953: The Race for the Summit runs until Sun 27 Aug 2023 at C Venues – C Cubed Main Space at 13:30