Get our free email newsletter with just one click

The Wider Earth review at Natural History Museum, London – ‘impressive puppetry’

Bradley Foster in The Wider Earth at Natural History Museum. Photo: Mark Douet
by -

There’s a certain, old-style schoolboy thrill about this Australian import. A play about Charles Darwin’s legendary round-the-world voyage on the HMS Beagle, staged after hours in the Natural History Museum: it’s the kind of show that makes you feel 11 again.

There’s a lot that 11-year-olds would love about The Wider Earth. Writer and director David Morton’s story is packed with enough puppetry, projections and pulsating music to blow a young audience away. The recently-graduated Darwin is whisked from Cambridge to the Galapagos and back again in a filmic, fast-paced frenzy of snippety scenes, movement sequences, and impressively articulated wooden animals.

But impressive as the Dead Puppet Society’s giant turtles look, there’s not actually much for grown-ups to sink their teeth into here. Morton’s script is basically a succession of emphatically epic, awkwardly expositional exchanges, which rarely last longer than two or three lines. There’s enough scientific titbits to satisfy a school trip, but there’s a desert when it comes to genuine drama.

The cast don’t exactly embrace understatement either: Bradley Foster’s beardless Darwin is appropriately endearing, and Jack Parry-Jones is sufficiently strapping as Captain Fitzroy, but although everyone clambers over Aaron Barton’s rotating wooden set with enthusiasm, they’re all just a bit too shouty.

This is the first play to be staged in a new performance space built inside the Natural History Museum. It’s not all that sophisticated, but it’s staged with enough rocket fuel to see it over the line.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
An overpowered production of an underpowered script about Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle