Actors on stage during a performance of The Wider Earth.

European premiere of award-winning Darwin drama The Wider Earth to be staged in the Jerwood Gallery

In a groundbreaking 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.  

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 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 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 cutting-edge Darwin Centre. This 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 say, '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.'

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

“No praise could be too high for The Wider Earth… Fighting back tears at the end, one comes away from this enormously impressive reimagining of the Charles Darwin story moved not just by the magnitude of the theatrical stakes but by the sincerity, humility and, best of all, clarity of the storytelling (The Australian).”

Notes to editors

Title                                 

The Wider Earth

Performance dates       

Tuesday 2nd October – Sunday 30th December 2018                 

Tuesday – Saturday, 7:30pm

Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 2:30pm

Box office                        

http://www.thewiderearth.com/

Location  

Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, Kensington, London SW7 5BD

Patrons who will be attending the evening show will be able to access the building through the Queen’s Gate entrance.

How to get there            

The nearest tube station is South Kensington on the District, Piccadilly and Circle lines. The station is approximately five minutes’ walk from the Museum's Exhibition Road entrance. Gloucester Road station also services the above tube lines and is approximately five minutes' walk from the Queen's Gate entrance.

Bus routes 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430 and C1 stop close to the Museum.

Running time                    

2 hours 15 minutes including interval

Twitter                                

@thewiderearth, @NHM_London, #TheWiderEarth

Age Recommendation   10+

Dead Puppet Society

Dead Puppet Society is a visual theatre and design company based between Brisbane and New York City. Their most recent production Laser Beak Man (with Brisbane Festival and La Boite) premiered following a two year residency at The New Victory Theater in New York City. The Wider Earth was initially developed at St. Ann's Warehouse and Lincoln Centre, premiered with Queensland Theatre and transferred to the Sydney Opera House for Sydney Festival. Prior to this, the Society worked with Handspring Puppet Company (War Horse) in South Africa and created Argus (Lincoln Center, Kravis Center Florida, Australian National Tour).

Previous works include The Harbinger (La Boite Theatre Company Australian National Tour), The Timely Death Of Victory Blott (Metro Arts) and Little Grey Wolf (Brisbane Festival and Adelaide Fringe. The Society has received several awards from The Jim Henson Foundation for the creation of new work and was awarded the Gold Matilda Award in 2017 for their body of work in 2016. They have recently been nominated for six Helpmann Awards for The Wider Earth and Laser Beak Man.

Trish Wadley Productions

Trish Wadley spent 20 years working internationally in media before moving to theatre and has worked at the Bush Theatre and Tricycle Theatre. For Defibrillator, as Executive Producer, she has produced A Lie Of The Mind (Southwark Playhouse) Speech & Debate (Trafalgar Studios); The Hotel Plays (Grange Hotel and Langham, London); Hard Feelings and The One Day of the Year (Finborough); The Armour (Langham, London) and Insignificance (Langham Place, New York). As producer: Burning Bridges (Theatre503). As co-producer: Olivier-nominated The Red Lion (Trafalgar Studios) and My Night With Reg (Apollo Theatre). Trish is a Stage One Bursary recipient and director of The Uncertainty Principle.  She is also a founder of The Australian & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts (FANZA).

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum exists to inspire a love of the natural world and unlock answers to the big issues facing humanity and the planet. It is a world-leading science research centre, and through its unique collection and unrivalled expertise it is tackling issues such as food security, eradicating diseases and managing resource scarcity.

The Natural History Museum is the most visited natural history museum in Europe and the top science attraction in the UK; we welcome more than 4.5 million visitors each year and our website receives over 500,000 unique visitors a month. People come from around the world to enjoy our galleries and events and engage both in-person and online with our science and learning activities through innovative programmes such as citizen science and family festivals.

Jerwood Foundation

The Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum was beautifully restored and modernised in 1999 with a generous capital grant from Jerwood Foundation to create a stunning venue for arts and science exhibitions and activities.

Jerwood Foundation was established in 1977 by its Chairman, Alan Grieve, for John Jerwood, an international businessman and philanthropist.  Since John Jerwood’s death in 1991, Jerwood has grown into a family of organisations united in their commitment to support, nurture and reward excellence and dedication in the visual and performing arts in the UK, with a particular focus on early-career artists.   

To date, Jerwood has channelled over £100 million in capital and revenue funding in the broadest support of the arts and education in the UK.  There are Eighteen capital projects throughout the UK which bear the Jerwood name, including Jerwood Library, Trinity Hall, Cambridge; Jerwood Space, London; Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich; Jerwood Theatres, Royal Court; Jerwood Studio, Glyndebourne; and Jerwood Gallery, Natural History Museum.

Contacts for journalists

Weekdays: +44 (0)20 7942 5654
Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 7799 690 151
Email: press@nhm.ac.uk