The Sherpa & the Beekeeper – Summit on Everest

Jacqui caught up with Matt Kambic about his play,’The Sherpa & the Beekeeper ~ Summit on Everest.’ which will be staged at the Meteor in Hamilton this month. 

Tell us about The Sherpa & the Beekeeper ~ Summit on Everest

The play explores the personal and political repercussions of one of the most iconic moments of the 20th century, the first summiting of Mt. Everest. 

Nepalese sherpa Tenzing Norgay and New Zealand beekeeper Ed Hillary were born and raised in very different cultures. Although they were a climbing team on the expedition, they were not necessarily close friends. On 29 May, 1953, they suddenly became world-famous heroes and celebrities, and linked forever by their momentous deed. Considering how relatively smoothly the actual climb went, from that day forward their lives went through a great, shared crucible of both glory and tribulation. In the writing, I’ve attempted to mine the resulting cultural, class, and human flash points. The play recreates the 1953 summit day on Mt. Everest, then imagines how the climbers might explore their achievement and its repercussions with each other, in a future-envisioned ‘summit’ of their own.

How did the journey start from concept to performance?

The work’s journey from concept to a performance season was begun when I was invited to join the Meteor Theatre’s Boil-Up initiative last year. Under the fine auspices of Meteor General Manager Deborah Nudds and Boil-Up facilitator Khayt Hanara, a group of playwrights was able to scrutinize their own work with advisors, actors, and guest speakers. From those workshops, and after much careful revising, Boil-Up participants were able to move our plays from the page to the stage.  

You are a member of the Raglan Writer’s Collective / Inkspillers. Sarah Johnson, another Raglan Inkspiller, has served as dramaturge for the work. What has this involved?

Sarah’s presence in the Raglan writing and creative community has always been generous. She was the individual who alerted me to the Boil-Up opportunity, without which there would not be a play, by me, happening in May! As dramaturge, she read various versions of the play, helping me clarify and deepen the story. I’m delighted and appreciative to have her on The Sherpa & the Beekeeper ~ Summit on Everest team.

What other Raglan locals are involved in the process and how?

Part time Raglan-ites Jay and Brooke Baker are the play’s Production Managers. They’ve both been invaluable in helping me with this climb. Raglan artist Stuart Shepherd was kind enough to bring his creative talents to the advising table, along with lending a hand with some of the ‘rock-sculpting’ being done to fabricate the Mt. Everest summit set piece. It’s quite a prop, with a 16 ft. diameter and three levels for our actors to perform upon.

I should mention them; two fine gentlemen from north of here. Cameron Smith plays Sir Edmund Hillary and Jericho Nicodemus plays Tenzing Norgay Sherpa. Both have screen acting credits. We also have support from Hamilton; professional play maven Melisa Martin, skilled mountain-builder James Brunskill, and other allies and helpers. I should also mention that Raglan Roast coffee has helped me through long stretches of play-related activities!

What can the audience expect as they view the performance?

The play is staged on the replica of Everest’s peak. The theatre will be unheated during Act I, to simulate the mountain environment. The play begins with a recreation of that famous summit day. From there, it moves to an imagined future, where the two now-famous characters work through the travails of fame and fortune, each searching for ways to stay true to their own inner compass, as their deed inundates their lives and the world.

What are you enjoying most about the experience ?

I can say unequivocally ~ it’s all good. The writing, the designing, the collaboration, fabrication, prop-making, costume wrangling, and rehearsing. I was born in 1953; maybe there’s a cosmic connection to this climb, this mountain, and these humans. I’m very, very grateful for the opportunity.

When, where and how does one get tickets? 

Tickets are on sale now at the Meteor: 

www.themeteor.co.nz. ( I tell people, ‘get ‘em while they’re cold’ :). 

Everest Play runs from May 25 – May 29 at the Meteor Theatre.