Sunday, March 13, 2022



Written and directed by David Morton

Dead Puppet Society production

The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 12 March


Reviewed by Len Power 9 March 2022

It is well-known that Charles Darwin’s book, “On the Origin Of The Species” created quite a stir in the scientific and religious world when first published in 1859.  It presented a wealth of evidence that evolution had occurred and provided a mechanism for the process – natural selection.

Dead Puppet Society’s production, “The Wider Earth”, focusses on the story of Charles Darwin’s five year, around the world voyage on the ship HMS Beagle.  A young man of only 22 when he set sail in 1831, Darwin was employed as a naturalist on the ship, recording geology and collecting fossils and other natural history specimens of the lands they visited.  As the voyage proceeded, Darwin began to formulate his theory of evolution based on the evidence he was finding.

Charles Darwin (Tom Conroy - at right) experiences the fires of Tierra del Fueggo on board the ship - photo by Prudence Upton

This unique presentation uses actors, puppetry, cinematic projections, period costumes and an original music score to bring to life the strange landscapes and never before seen wildlife encountered on the voyage.

David Morton, the writer, director and co-designer (with Aaron Barton) has produced a beautifully atmospheric work that is visually and aurally exciting.  The clever and imaginative puppetry adds another dimension to this well-told, involving story.

Charles Darwin and the butterflies - photo by Guy Bell

The ensemble cast is led by Tom Conroy who gives a fine performance as the young Charles Darwin.  There are sharply etched characterisations from the other performers playing the various people in Darwin’s life on and off the ship.

This complex production has a huge creative team behind it who have all done superb work in creating this fascinating world onstage.  The original atmospheric music score by Lior and Tony Buchen, the original lighting design by David Walters and, for the tour, Lee Curran and the projections designs by Justin Harrison are all excellent.

Charles Darwin discovers a giant turtle - photo by Guy Bell

The sound design by Tony Brumpton was generally well done but the Narrator’s voice was over-amplified and distorted.

Older children will enjoy this inspiring and entertaining show as much as adults.  The attractive souvenir program contains a wealth of extra detail about Darwin and his voyage that makes it a worthwhile purchase.

This is a beautiful, highly atmospheric and imaginative production of a landmark historical voyage.


This review was first published in the Canberra CityNews digital edition of 10 March.


Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at