THE WIDER EARTH | London, Natural History Museum

The Wider Earth, currently showing in the Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum, is fun, fresh and family-friendly. It’s an educational escapade into the briny British world of 19th century seafaring, exploring the human and natural historical dimensions of Charles Darwin’s five-year voyage on HMS Beagle.

The production, elegantly directed by David Morton, bobs along at a pleasant pace, with original music by Lior and Tony Buchen. We become intimate with young Darwin, played with fresh-faced enthusiasm by Bradley Foster. Equally great is Jack-Parry Jones as the stoic but sensitive Robert FitzRoy, the Beagle’s captain and Darwin’s star-crossed sea rival.

The play’s soul resides in its puppetry. Armadillos, giant turtles, finches, iguanas and sharks scurry, trundle, flutter, creep and swim across the stage. The back wall boasts a curved canvas sprawling like a sail and etched with cinematic panoramas and intimate sketches that contribute to the show’s immersive feel. The set is an architectural splendor that creaks as it revolves, like wood warping in saltwater.

The production is planted into the middle of a museum gallery, brimful of cute puppets that move like the real thing. Sure, it’s educational and fun, but actually it’s much more than that. It’s a refreshing and exhilarating take on what theatre can be. Don’t miss it.

The Wider Earth runs until December 30, 2018 at the Natural History Museum.

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