Oh my bananas, this is going to be great night out. I could feel it just watching an excerpt. I do love reviewing shows when I get to meet the cast and creative team as I can get a sense of the passion and the commitment, and The Wider Earth team has buckets of both.
The Wider Earth charts the journey of Charles Darwin, aged 22, as he joins the HMS Beagle on a 5-year voyage to exotic lands. It shows his challenges and those on board with him such as Jemmy Button – a young man who was traded for a button when the HMS Beagle was in Tierra del Fuego. He was taken to England and became a celebrity for a period but was, effectively, taken hostage. The conversation between Jemmy and the Captain, and Jemmy and Darwin showed two sides to his story that would be great to explore further.
And this is where I think this play will work; on multiple levels, as a fascinating performance but also providing hooks for conversations on subjects such as ethics, the impact of religion, slavery, growing up, and facing adversity. The traditional story of Darwin’s theory of evolution is clearly not the only discussion to be had, and that is what makes this piece so interesting. What’s also really nice is that this cast are not only credible actors but also so skilled at manoeuvring these huge/delicate/tiny puppets and are clearly in love with their little “friends”. The passion shown as they spoke in the Q & A session about the show was testament to a stonkingly-good story being given a great platform.
The animals are brought to life by Dead Puppet Society with some amazingly intricate puppets that are clearly works of art in their own right and I continue to be amazed at the inventiveness and pure craftsmanship I am seeing in our London theatre scene.
This play has an interesting history. Showing in New York and Australia (Sydney Opera House), this production will have its European premiere in the Natural History Museum, South Kensington – the first theatre ever to be built within the museum. I would go and see the play not only for the story but also to experience an event like this in such a magnificent setting, particularly when we don’t know when, if ever, the Natural History Museum will next host a play.
I’m feeling extremely lucky that I got to see a preview in the heart of this grand museum and to be at the start of the casts’ next big adventure.
So the big question is, how are they going to “break set” when the time comes? I bet there’ll be an armadillo stuffed up someone’s jumper as they head out to the cast party after the final performance…
This is a partnership project between Trish Wadley Productions, Dead Puppet Society, Glass Half Full Productions and the Natural History Museum.