Actors scale haunted mountain in ‘Ascent of F6’

Photo of a mountain in Great Britain
Photo of a mountain in Great Britain

The summit of fictitious mountain F6, known by locals as “The Haunted Mountain,” beckons a group of ambitious British citizens in the latest production by NIU’s School of Theatre and Dance.

Beginning Thursday, Feb. 23, the school will present the staged production of “The Ascent of F6,” written by W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood.

The British people of an alternate 1930s are longing for a hero. Great Britain’s rival, Ostnia, is threatening to seize dominance of the region. British politician Sir James Ransom, however, has formulated a scheme to bring fame to himself and glory to the British Empire.

Ransom approaches his brother, Michael, an idealistic mountain climber, to convince him to lead a group of climbers in a race to the top of F6, a mountain on a disputed piece of land. Ostnia is also sending climbers to the peak, and whoever scales it first will win dominance of the land.

“There are three spheres of people who are affected by the climbing,” explains Kate Booth, who plays Mrs. A., a character representative of the average British woman. There are the politicians, the general middle-class public and the climbers, she says. The politicians are simply using F6 to bolster their careers, she explains

The general public, on the other hand, wants a savior. Mr. and Mrs. A. find their lives dull and unfulfilling. When they hear on the radio that Michael Ransom is leading British climbers to the top of F6, they feel like someone is finally fighting for them, Booth says.

Michael Ransom’s struggles are not just about climbing, Booth says. He feels pressure to sacrifice himself for his country, rather than live for his personal ideals, she explains. When Michael agrees to climb, he finds himself the unwitting and unwilling savior of Britain.

Despite the play’s stylistic complexity, as when it alternates segments of poetry and prose, it is intensely relatable, Booth says. Mr. and Mrs. A. worry about the economy and their lack of money. They look to Michael as a savior and are disappointed when he struggles, Booth explains.

Brandin Hurley, who designed the set, will create a mountain on stage. “It creates an environment in which the actors are forced to … mirror the physicality of climbing,” she says.

“The Ascent of F6” will be performed in the O’Connell Theatre from Thursday, Feb. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 26, and Thursday, March 1, through Sunday, through 4. Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students.

Tickets may be purchased at the Stevens Building O’Connell Theatre box office, open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from noon to 2 p.m. Friday and one hour before show time. Tickets may also be ordered online or by phone at (815) 753-1600.

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