If you’re visiting London’s Natural History Museum over the coming months, be sure to see ‘The Wider Earth’. Give Hope, the iconic blue whale, a wave as you pass through Hintze hall towards the Jerwood Gallery. Then settle into your seats to watch just a handful of actors together with animal puppets created by theatre company, Dead Puppet Society, portray Charles Darwin’s historic Beagle voyage.
Dead Puppet Society has links to the Handspring Puppet Company, creator of the stunning horses of ‘War Horse’. So it’s no wonder ‘The Wider Earth’ puppets are ingenious. Creatures from fluttering finches to giant tortoises inhabit the stage while Bradley Foster, as the youthful Darwin, gropes his way towards an understanding of how they could have evolved.
The scientific and philosophical issues are pared down, but small children may still find the play dialogue-heavy. For older children and adults, though, it’s an enchanting spectacle, with exceptional puppetry. The show is scheduled to run until 30th December 2018. Update: now extended to 24th February. AND KIDS CAN GO FREE!
Youngsters who want to read more about Darwin will enjoy ‘The Misadventures of Charles Darwin’ by Isabel Thomas, published by OUP. Out of all the editions of Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’, my favourite is the beautiful illustrated edition, with editor David Quammen, published by Sterling.