The Wider Earth

Devon Cartwright

The Wider Earth is a brilliant piece and another wonderful production developed by Dead Puppet Society.
The Wider Earth

Tom Conroy in The Wider Earth. Photograph via Queensland Theatre Company. 

Imagine embarking upon a journey to distant lands, discovering all manner of beasts from both past and present; the immense excitement and terror in equal measure as you sail around the world, not knowing what you would find. This is the world that Charles Darwin encountered on his exploration aboard HMS Beagle, lands full of insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, and many others that had never been seen before by Europeans.

In his welcome note, Artistic Director of QTC, Sam Strong briefly touches on his experience sitting in on rehearsals for The Wider Earth. Strong mentions the dedication and creativity involved in the process and development of this remarkable show, how he recalled at times requiring a 'healthy dose of imagination'. It is evident that this production has made tremendous success as it strives to deliver one of the greatest examples of collaboration. Key creatives, David Morton, Nicholas Paine, and Aaron Barton have assembled a masterpiece along with other talented individuals. One can only admire the craft that each member has brought to life in The Wider Earth, as everything from the rotating stage, to the hand-crafted puppets, beautiful illustrations, and diverse music combined to immerse the audience with utter brilliance.

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This performance follows the real-life travels of Charles Darwin on a world-wide quest for understanding, not just the world, but also an in depth analysis of the life of a young Darwin (before the world knew him as the bearded old man of memory). Audiences will be exposed to an expertly written piece that involves drama, humour, suspense, and adventure; the actors involved are superb as they interact and utilise a host of puppets ranging from dogs, to tortoises, and all manner in between. Reminiscent of the elaborate puppetry involved in the touring production Warhorse, it is truly spectacular the detail put into how each animal moves, and reacts with its surroundings, bringing them to life with unique individual qualities.

Recurring themes of the production, and most likely a reflection of the times Darwin lived in, revolve around the curiosity of man and how the world came to be, whether the natural chaos of a world shaped by earthquakes, or crafted by the guided hand of an all-powerful deity. There is a definite balance between these two streams of thought, and Morton has done well to utilise it to its fullest effect on his characters. The struggle between religion and faith is what drives many individuals forward, and with it comes the responsibility to understand how it can affect us and the world around us.

Needless to say, The Wider Earth is a brilliant piece, and another wonderful production developed by Dead Puppet Society. In such a short time, they have risen from a small Brisbane-based group of artists, to an international success story. Proof that this city has the talent and potential to create amazing performances, and the ability to share these moments with countless members from the global community.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Wider Earth
Writer/Director/Co-Designer/Puppet Designer: David Morton
Creative Producer/Puppet Fabricator: Nicholas Paine
Co-Designer: Aaron Barton
Lighting Designer: David Walters
Co-Composers: Lior and Tony Buchen
AV/Animation Designer: Justin Harrison
Dramaturg: Louise Gough
Illustrator/Puppet Arting: Anna Straker.

Performers: 
Margi Brown Ash,
Tom Conroy,
Lauren Jackson,
Thomas Larkin,
David Lynch,
Jonty Martin,
Anthony Standish,
Anna Straker,
Robert Coleby.

Queensland Theatre Company & Dead Puppet Society
Bille Brown Studio QTC
9 July – 7 August 2016​

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Devon is a free-lance Canadian director and Reviewer for ArtsHub. Graduated from St Clair College with an Advanced Diploma in Music Theatre Performance, and studied on exchange with the University of Windsor (Communications, Media, & Film) and Griffith University (Contemporary and Applied Theatre).

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