In a ground-breaking move for UK theatre, Trish Wadley Productions and Dead Puppet Society will create 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.

“[A] brilliant, groundbreaking production… a sharp, funny, and honest script”
The Spectator

Following sold-out seasons in Brisbane and Sydney, The Wider Earth finds the perfect home at the the Natural History Museum. The Museum is custodian to many of the specimens Charles Darwin collected on his expeditions and its 350 scientists continue in his footsteps of exploration and discovery, seeking solutions to the major issues facing the natural world. This will be the first time a performance-based theatre has been constructed in the Museum and adds an exciting new element to the wide-range of exhibitions and events which already attract over 4.5 million visitors every year.

Featuring a cast of seven and 30 extraordinary hand-made puppets representing the exotic wildlife Darwin encountered, The Wider Earth is an ingenious coming-of-age story which celebrates the incredible complexity of our planet and Darwin’s adventurous spirit as he faced perilous environments and unknown dangers on his bold voyage.

The production 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 he departed, he could not have known that 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.

The Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum was beautifully restored in 1999 with a generous capital grant from the Jerwood Foundation to provide a home in the Museum for arts and science exhibitions and activities.  Evening audiences will pass next to the Museum’s cuttingedge Darwin Centre. The Centre comprises working laboratories as well as some of the 22 million zoological specimens housed there, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin on his voyage in 1831. 

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 says, 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. During this expedition, Charles Darwin collected the specimens that would inspire his theory of evolution and change how we understand the world – specimens we still house at the Museum and continue to make available for global scientific research. 

The production is a tale of exploration and adventure and a thrilling new addition to our autumn offering to visitors. The team bring to life not only Darwin as a young explorer but also through intricate puppetry 30 of the fascinating creatures he met from an Amazonian iguana to an Arctic tern.

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 by LA-based producer Tony Buchen and acclaimed ARIA award-winning Australian composer Lior will transport audiences to the exotic and distant lands featured in this courageous production.

Nicholas Paine and David Morton of Dead Puppet Society comments, Puppets and visual theatre go hand in hand. In a form devoted to using the theatrical elements in such a way that visuals are given the same importance as text, there often comes a time where non-human performers are necessary. 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 Wider Earth is presented by Trish Wadley Productions and Dead Puppet Society in association with Glass Half Full Productions.

The Wider Earth

Tuesday 2nd October – Sunday 30th December

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