The story of Cheshire’s George Mallory and his tragic ascent of Mount Everest has been made into a musical. The climber from Mobberley is one of history’s most famous mountaineers, having led the first charges towards the summit of Everest until he disappeared high on the mountain in 1924.
And now, his story will be told in Mallory on the Mountain, which will be staged at The Lowry on October 19. The show is the brainchild of Ollie Mills, who grew up in Wilmslow, not far from where Mallory was born.
Speaking to Cheshire Live, the 29-year-old said: “The story we know is that they never made it back down the mountain and there’s not any firm proof that they made it to the top. What’s been inspired is years and years of hypothesising – did they or didn’t they make it to the top?
“What I’m trying to do with Mallory on the Mountain is explore Mallory the man and what led him to make that fateful decision. What would he have known at that point of time and therefore what decision would he have made?
“I’d like to think that people will come away with their own interpretation on whether they did or didn’t make it to the top.”
Ollie first became aware of the significance of Mallory and his expeditions to Mount Everest when he saw the documentary film Wildest Dream. Some years later, Ollie read the book on which the film was based and became even more interested in the story.
He said: “I realised that maybe I could do something with this. It doesn’t have to be this explosive, epic setup on the mountain but it could be a really human story.”
The University of York graduate, who now lives in Stockport, began writing the musical back in 2016. One song was even performed at a cabaret show but then other priorities prevented Ollie from finishing his creation.
Then when the Covid pandemic began along with the lockdowns, Ollie pledged he was going to use the time to complete the musical. In 2021, he founded Imaginality Productions and Mallory on the Mountain is one of its first shows.
Asked what it was about Mallory’s story that he found so special, Ollie said: “There are a lot of parallels with George’s story and anyone like me who has a very particular dream.
“The entertainment industry is a bit of a world of dreamers. Everybody has that ultimate pipedream. Some people are fortunate enough to make it and others go down in flames.
“Everyone wants to be the former and I think George is a tremendous example of someone who absolutely believed that the summit was in his sight.
“That’s what really attracted me to his story. Although it’s this really interesting pocket of history, I think there are a lot of parallels with his story and the modern world as well as anyone who wants to achieve anything.”
When Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew ‘Sandy’ Irvine disappeared on Mount Everest, it was not known whether they had made it to the summit or not. They were last seen around 800ft from the top by one of the other expedition members.
Debate has raged for decades over whether the pair did make it, which was reinvigorated when Mr Anker found Mallory’s frozen body 75 years later.
Asked for his opinion on whether Mallory made it to the top of Everest, Ollie said: “I think I have to believe he reached the top. That is in many ways what many people coming to this, certainly people coming in cold, would want to believe.
“I know a lot of mountaineers have different opinions but I believe there is enough evidence there to suggest that he did. That’s certainly the ending everyone wants.”
The musical currently has six cast members, though Ollie is hoping to expand it in the future. His aim is for the show to take part in any commemorations in 2024 marking 100 years since Mallory’s final climb.
Mallory on the Mountain will be showing at the Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays at 7.45pm on Wednesday October 19. Tickets cost £10-£12 and are available on The Lowry’s website.