THE WIDER EARTH
By David Norton
The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5DB to 30 December 2018.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thur, Sat & Sun 2.3opm.
Runs 2hr 15 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 815 7141.
Review: William Russell 14 October.
The voyage of the damned
The museum is home to many things Darwin collected on his travels. The Wider Earth is the first production in the new, but not very impressive, theatre constructed in the Jerwood Gallery next door to the Darwin collection. Whether this tedious play will persuade anyone to go see the real life material is anybody’s guess.
Dramatically limp, none too well acted against some truly ghastly back projections supposed to take the audience to where the 22 year old Darwin sailed on the Beagle which do nothing of the sort, it is one to forget. The projections look like animated comic paper drawings at best, while the set in front of them is a jumble of wooden shapes on a revolve that makes one fear for the actors required to scramble over their slippery slopes.
To be fair the various puppets – this is a Dead Puppet Society production – are charming and include a rather splendid armadillo, some nice fish and a couple of Galapagos turtles. But puppets do not a play make when there is no play there in the first place.
What one sees on stage is enough to drive anyone into the ranks of Creationism, although this was his first voyage and long before the Origing of the Species.
The cast, given the material they had to cope with, did they best they could not helped by the language given them. There is a skill finding the right words for 19th century people which will still make sense to today’s audiences and the author does not have it. Since he also directed it – seldom a good sign – the result is all his own fault. Condemned to sail with Darwin as conceived here would drive anybody to toss the man overboard at the first opportunity.
The souvenir programme, however, is informative about Darwin so one may leave having been bored to tears but there is at least something interesting to read on the way home.
Reverend John Henslow/Sir John Hetschel: Andrew Bridgmont.
Jimmy Button: Marcello Cruz.
Charles Darwin: Bradley Foster.
Robert Darwin/Richard Matthews: Ian Houghton.
Robert Fitzroy: Jack Parry-Jones.
John Clements Wickham/Adam Sedgwick: Matt Tait.
Emma Wedgwood: Melissa Vaughan.
Understudies: Rory Fairbairn & Kim Scopes.
Director & Co-designer: David Morton.
Co-Designer: Aaron Barton.
Co-Composer: Tony Bucher.
Projection Designer: Justin Harrison.
Sound Designer: Tony Brumpton.
UK Lighting Designer: Lee Curran.
Lighting Designer: David Walters.
Puppet Design: Dead Puppet Society.
Production Photography: Prudence Upton.