Search

Theatre Review: The Wider Earth, Natural History Museum

PUBLISHED: 17:07 12 October 2018

Ian Houghton, Andrew Bridgmont, Marcello Cruz, Bradley Foster, Melissa Vaughan, Jack Parry-Jones and Matt Tait in The Wider Earth. 

Photo by Mark Douet

Ian Houghton, Andrew Bridgmont, Marcello Cruz, Bradley Foster, Melissa Vaughan, Jack Parry-Jones and Matt Tait in The Wider Earth. Photo by Mark Douet

Photo by Mark Douet

Imaginative and visually exciting story of Charles Darwin’s eventful Beagle voyage its told in a purpose-built venue at this iconic museum

Marcello Cruz and Bradley Foster in The Wider Earth. 

Photo by Mark DouetMarcello Cruz and Bradley Foster in The Wider Earth. Photo by Mark Douet

THE WIDER EARTH

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

FOUR STARS

What better subject to grace the first purpose-built theatre at this iconic museum than the story of how Charles Darwin formed his groundbreaking theory of evolution?

Darwin was just 22 when he embarked on a five-year voyage aboard HMS Beagle to circumnavigate the globe, map the South American shoreline and collect specimens of flora and fauna.

Years before the publication of On The Origin of Species and the fusty image of a bearded Victorian elder, Bradley Foster’s boyishly enthusiastic and humane naturalist gives us Darwin: the student years.

There are great discoveries to be made in small observations, counsels his university mentor, but wealthy father Robert wants our young hero to be a vicar. Luckily his intelligent cousin Emma says she’ll wait for him when he’s offered a berth by charismatic Naval Captain Robert FitzRoy on a perilous journey that encounters storms, earthquakes, mental hardship and fire-wielding natives.

Suitable for ages 10 upwards, writer/director David Morton aided by the talents of the Dead Puppet Society, does an imaginitive job of cutting through complex scientific theory, and treading the line between airing some weighty themes while not talking down to younger audience members.

Colourful back projections map The Beagle’s voyage, Aaron Barton’s spinning set swiftly transforms from rocky outcrop to ship’s cabin in the turn of a revolve, and wooden frame puppets of turtles, exotic birds and armadillos provide magical moments.

Based on Darwin’s own account of the voyage and surviving letters, Morton’s play deals with issues of slavery and colonialism as Jemmy Button, bought from Tierra Del Fuego for a brass button and taken back to Britian to be civlised, rejects being returned to his former homeland as a Christian missionary.

On board FitzRoy and Rev Henslow stand for the religious certainties that the abolitionist Darwin is increasingly questioning as he observes how the animals he encounters have adapted to their changing landscapes.

The amiable Darwin forms touching relationships as FitzRoy almost mentally buckles under the stress of leadership, but it is the notion that an unprejudiced open mind can make the scientific observations and connections to rock his world that lingers afterwards.

Gaining access to this atmospheric museum at night is frankly just a bonus.

4/5

Latest Hackney Stories

18:00

Ultra-marathon hero Kevin Webber was presented with a cheque for £150,000 after completing seven walking marathons in seven days

The Chilean praised Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino ahead of the capital clash

14:00

Clapton manager Jonny Fowell says they will not worry about the threats Sporting Bengal pose, but insists they will have to shut down former Tons striker Jay Knight.

13:00

West Ham United return to action in the Premier League on Saturday when they welcome fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur to the London Stadium.

A teenager has been found guilty of “hunting” and murdering Israel Ogunsola with a knife in central Hackney.

Mauricio Pochettino and Harry Kane urge Spurs to kick on following record-equalling league start

Two east London clubs will go head-to-head at the Mile End Stadium this evening

Wembley Stadium plays host to the second of its three NFL games of the season on Sunday and fans will be hoping that they are treated to a better game than last week’s one-sided contest between the Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders.



Newsletter Sign Up

Hackney Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists