Stage set for Darwin drama, The Wider Earth, at Natural History Museum

Directors are always looking for new radical new venues as a showcase for their theatrical productions and now London’s Natural History Museum has created a theatre space for an extraordinary coming of age play about Charles Darwin.

The award-winning drama, The Wider Earth, written and directed by Dead Puppet Society creative director, David Morton, moves into a specially constructed theatre for its European premiere, which begins on October 2.

The Wider Earth stars National Theatre actor, Bradley Foster, as Darwin, alongside War Horse actors, Ian Houghton, Andrew Bridgmont and Matt Tait.

The show was initially conceived in 2013 in Cape Town during a mentorship with Handspring Puppet Company, the creative team behind the National Theatre’s phenomenally successful War Horse.

This visually spectacular production features 30 extraordinary puppets representing the tropical wildlife Darwin encountered on his voyage.

The production will have its premiere in the first performance theatre ever to be built at the Natural History Museum.

The story follows a rebellious young Darwin who, at the age of only 22, set out on an intrepid five-year voyage of discovery on HMS Beagle.

The incredible hand-made puppets are as much the stars of the show as the stellar cast who will bring them to life.

From tiny Galápagos finches, to giant tortoises and a fossilised glyptodon, the puppets have been made following observations in the field and extensive analysis of anatomical drawings.

Created over the past two years, the puppets have now had their final stages of fabrication and modification at the Darwin Centre in the Natural History Museum

Nicholas Paine and David Morton of Dead Puppet Society said: “What makes this work special is its unique approach to storytelling, casting talented actors to play famous historical figures, who bring to life an array of incredible creatures through masterful puppetry”.

The new 357-seat theatre, built in the Jerwood Gallery, will allow audiences to enter the museum after dark and pass the cutting-edge Darwin Centre, a working scientific laboratory full of zoological specimens including those collected by Darwin on his voyage.

The full cast of this ingenious production is Ian Houghton, Andrew Bridgmont, Matt Tait, Bradley Foster, Jack Parry-Jones, Marcello Cruz, Melissa Vaughan, Rory Fairbairn and Kim Scopes.

The Wider Earth runs at Jerwood Gallery, the Natural History Museum, from October 2 – December 30.

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