The Ascent of F6

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First UK edition

The Ascent of F6: A Tragedy in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the second and most successful play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1936. It was a major contribution to English poetic drama in the 1930s.

Plot[edit]

The play tells the story of Michael Ransom, a climber, who, against his better judgement, accepts the offer of the British press and government to sponsor an expedition to the peak of F6, a mountain on the border of a British colony and a colony of the fictional country of Ostnia. Ransom is destroyed by his haste to complete the expedition ahead of the Ostnian climbers.

Background[edit]

The play is widely regarded as an allegory of Auden's own temptation to be a public figure; this interpretation was first offered by R. G. Collingwood in The Principles of Art (1938).

The play was published in three slightly different versions: the first English edition in 1936, the American edition in 1937, and a second English edition in 1937.

The play is dedicated to Auden's geologist brother John Bicknell Auden who had taken part in an expedition near the Himalayan mountain K2.[1]

Auden personally invited Benjamin Britten to write the incidental music for the play. Britten composed the music in February 1937, the month of the play's first production, including a choral setting of "Stop all the clocks" (titled "Funeral Blues").[2]

Production history[edit]

The play was first produced at the Mercury Theatre, London on 26 February 1937, with incidental music by Benjamin Britten conducted from the piano by Brian Easdale.[2] Directed by Rupert Doone,[3] the cast included William Devlin as Michael Ransom, Dorothy Holmes-Gore as Mrs Ransom, and Hedli Anderson as the Singer.[2] After its initial run, The Ascent of F6 received 17 performances over the next two years.[4] It was broadcast live by the BBC on the 31st May 1937 in the early of television with William Devlin again playing Michael Ransome.[5]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Stearn, Roger T. (2004). "Auden, John Bicknell (1903–1991)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/53476. 
  2. ^ a b c Mitchell, Letters from a Life, Vol. 1: p. 487
  3. ^ Carpenter, Britten: p. 98
  4. ^ Wallace, p. 13
  5. ^ "Ascent Of F.6., The (BBC 1937 with William Devlin and Barry Barnes)". Memorable TV. Retrieved 2 July 2017. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Auden, W. H., and Christopher Isherwood. Plays and other dramatic writings by W. H. Auden, 1928-1939, ed. by Edward Mendelson (1988).
  • Carpenter, Humphrey. Benjamin Britten: A Biography. London: Faber and Faber (1992). ISBN 0571143245.
  • Mitchell, Donald (ed). Letters From a Life: The Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, Volume I, 1923–1939. London: Faber and Faber (1991). ISBN 057115221X.
  • Wallace, Helen. Boosey & Hawkes: The publishing story. London: Boosey & Hawkes (2007). ISBN 9780851625140.