On Centre Stage: Wilder, Still, and Wider Shall Their Bounds Be Set

On Centre Stage.
Wilder, Still, and Wider Shall Their Bounds Be Set.

By Douglas Kennedy.

The Wider Earth by David Morton. A Queensland and Dead Puppet Society Production. Bille Brown Studio. July 9- August 7.

In his program note for the Dead Poet Society’s striking new production, which tells the tale of a young Charles Darwin’s epic voyage in the HMS Beagle, co-founder David Morton explains the driving force behind the society’s debut in 2009.
Morton, and creative producer Nicholas Paine, believed there was a lack of visual theatre being produced in Brisbane, so they created a company which married puppetry and live theatre.
Now seven years later, the Dead Puppet Society’s The Wider Earth has delivered a show which fulfills that need in spades.
Indeed, Darwin’s story of life on the Beagle as a gentleman naturalist goes even further and delivers an impressive array of original talents across the whole theatrical spectrum.
To begin with Morton himself brings a truly remarkable list of credits to the table heading up the creatives as writer, director, co-designer and puppet designer.
While Nicholas Paine comes on board as creative producer and puppet fabricator before we get down to co-designer Aaron Barton, lighting designer David Walters, musical co-composers singer-songwriter Lior and Tony Buchen and sound designer Tony Brumpton among others.
Now folk doing write-ups on shows in mainstream media don’t generally single out so many of the creatives – they say if you come out of the theatre whistling the set there must be something wrong with the show – but the Wider Earth is as much an excellent ensemble technical achievement as a singular piece of storytelling.
In his early 20s Darwin could have easily been a Victorian sad sack, destined for a respectable life as a clergyman, but instead he opted to undertake a remarkable two year journey which revised the western world’s view of the natural world and ultimately the development of human existence.
His journey and findings challenged traditional perceptions of creation and defined his scholarship, which resulted in his book The Origin of the Species, for the rest of his long life.
So the young Darwin (Tom Conroy) said goodbye to his true love Emma Wedgwood (Lauren Jackson) and sailed off on the voyage now recreated in fictional form by Morton and company.
The Wider Earth has a stock of characters every bit as intriguing and charismatic as the puppet animals and birds with eight on-stage characters and Robert Coleby as the voice of old Darwin.
The seasoned performers including Margi Brown Ash, Thomas Larkin, David Lynch, Jonty Martin and Anthony Standish.
It is also worth noting Anna Straker’s work as puppet captain and her handling of the delightful Polly the dog.
The Wider Earth is a trip to savour and reports of sell out shows indicate that word of mouth is still the marketing tool of choice.

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