THE world premiere of a play telling the amazing story of the first men to conquer Everest will take place at the Met on Wednesday.

Mark Smith, the director of the play, said he first had the idea for the show after watching the film The Conquest of Everest, which will be screened at the Met on Saturday.

“I loved the mood of the film and I’d been really interested in mountaineering for a long time — more in asking why do people do that, why do they deliberately put themselves in danger?” he says.

In 1953 Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first men to reach the summit of Everest, after a gruelling five and a half mile climb.

Hillary, from New Zealand, and Norgay, a Sherpa, succeeded where six earlier British expeditions had failed.

“We’ve got a lovely show which encompasses my original thoughts about how amazing these people were — in retrospect it’s the equivalent of walking to the moon,” says Mark.

He says he was also interested in what both men did after they had conquered Everest, when they became national heroes.

“Ed and Tenzig set up charities and really changed the lives of the Sherpa people in the area,” says Mark. “But whenever they were written about all people ever wanted to know was who got to the top first? They both always said it was a team effort and refused to answer.”

He also stresses that Hillary was to all intents and purposes a normal man with an interest in mountaineering when he set off for the summit, driven by what Mark terms “youthful arrogance”.

“Ed worked on his father’s bee farm and Tenzing was a Sherpa,” he says. “Tenzing was an expert climber and leader of men but for Ed it was a hobby that turned into a profession — after they had climbed Everest he led an expedition looking for the Yeti and drove a Massey tractor across the Antarctic.

“They both went from being very ordinary men to being on the tips of people’s tongues around the world.”

The show is presented using actors, puppets, projected animation — and lots of snow. Mark says they deliberately rejected the idea of presenting it too literally in order to make it more interesting.

“People expect something literal from the TV and films,” he says. “Theatre should be about the imaginative.”

Watch a trailer for the show here:

The show is also part of the Night Less ordinary scheme run by the Arts Council which gives free tickets to people under 26.

“It’s a fantastic scheme,” says Mark. “People can see a really funny, interesting piece of work for nothing, which is fantastic for these hard times!”

• Top of the World is at the Met on Wednesday and Thursday. Tickets cost £8. To book, visit or ring 0161 761 2216.