The inclusion of puppets in a play that charts Charles Darwin’s history-making journey aboard The Beagle mightn’t seem like an obvious coupling. Yet Dead Puppet Society’s warmly received production of The Wider Earthfor Queensland Theatre in 2016 seemed to win over even the greatest of sceptics.
David Morton. Photo: supplied.
Billed as a coming of age story, it presents a thoroughly dynamic Darwin, burning with curiosity – greying phlegmatic of the history books he is not. The idea first came to Dead Puppet Society’s creative director, David Morton, and its executive producer, Nicholas Paine, during a residency at the Handspring Puppet Company in Cape Town, South Africa, best known as the team behind the smash-hit production of War Horse.
“It was learning the story of Darwin’s early life that made me want to create this show about him,” Morton says (he wrote the play, as well as directing the QT production and working on its design). “Having studied Darwin and his theories in school I was surprised at how ignorant I was about who he was before he became the wizened expert with the long grey beard. When I started to dig I...