Trish Wadley Productions and Dead Puppet Society are creating a 357-seat traditional performance theatre in the Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum to host the European premiere of the award-winning Darwin drama, The Wider Earth (running from 2 October to 30 December 2018, press night is 12 October).
Following sold-out seasons in Brisbane and Sydney, The Wider Earth finds the perfect home at the Natural History Museum as it is custodian to many of the specimens Charles Darwin collected on his expeditions. This will be the first time a performance-based theatre has been constructed in the museum.
Featuring a cast of seven and 30 hand-made puppets representing the exotic wildlife Darwin encountered, The Wider Earth explores the little-known story of the rebellious young Charles Darwin when, aged only 22, he set out on his daring five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle.
When Darwin departed, he could not have known that this trip would help him reach controversial conclusions about natural selection and lead to his theory of evolution. The Wider Earth follows Darwin’s expedition as uncharted landscapes unfold in a series of dazzling animations and original illustrations from the voyage.
Written and directed by Dead Puppet Society’s creative director David Morton, the idea for The Wider Earth was conceived at a residency in Cape Town in 2013 with the Handspring Puppet Company – the creative team behind War Horse. The production was then developed for a further eight months in residence at St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York, followed by a workshop at The Lincoln Center in 2015 and went into production with Queensland Theatre for the 2016 world premiere. The original cinematic score is by LA-based producer Tony Buchen and ARIA award-winning Australian composer Lior.
Nicholas Paine and David Morton of Dead Puppet Society commented:
“We use puppets to expand the possibilities of what can be presented on stage. During our time in South Africa we were struck by how young Darwin was throughout his time on the Beagle. This man in his early twenties seemed to sit at such odds with the image of the elderly gent with a long grey beard, and we decided we wanted to tell this young man’s story.”
The Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum was restored in 1999 with a capital grant from the Jerwood Foundation to provide a home in the museum for arts and science exhibitions and activities. The museum’s scientists, led by paleobiologist Professor Adrian Lister, author of Darwin’s Fossils, are working closely with the creative producers of the show to ensure it is rooted in authenticity.
The Natural History Museum’s Director of Engagement Clare Matterson said: “This is a really exciting creative collaboration – bringing together a hugely talented theatrical team and the Natural History Museum’s world-renowned scientific expertise. It makes perfect sense for the museum to host this production which is a gripping retelling of one of the most important voyages in scientific history.”
The Wider Earth is presented by Trish Wadley Productions and Dead Puppet Society in association with Glass Half Full Productions.