Kaz meets Andrew Bridgmont, currently starring in the award winning play, The Wider Earth

It’s not every day I get to see a play and meet one of the actors, so it was a rare treat to catch up with Hackney’s very own Andrew Bridgmont, currently starring in the award winning play about the young Charles Darwin.

The play is being performed at The Natural History Museum’s new theatre space, located rather appropriately in The Darwin Centre. It brings to life the little-known story of a rebellious and idealistic young Charles Darwin who, at the youthful age of 22, set out on a daring five-year adventure on the HMS Beagle.

With a cast of only seven characters, a revolving stage and an array of mechanical creatures created by the famed Dead Puppet Society., watching the play really is quite an experience. Interestingly, it was the thought-provoking dialogue that lingered rather than the mechanics and moving stage. While visually quite striking, they become supporting players rather than the centre of attention, and perhaps that’s the intention.

The play explores subjects such as colonialism, religion, ethics and relationships. It’s fascinating to imagine the world through a youthful Darwin’s eyes, and the play provides great insight into Darwin the person. As with many historical figures, we tend to think of the Father of Evolutionary Theory as a rather stern looking, serious old man looking out from a grey etching. The play – refreshingly – brings Darwin to life by portraying him as an idealistic, enthusiastic, passionate and driven young man who, during his extraordinary 5 year journey, wrestles with and questions his own beliefs, morals and ethics.

Andrew plays three separate roles in the play: The Reverend Henslow, mentor to Darwin and the person responsible for him going on the voyage, Sir John Herschel, a huge influence on Darwin’s later theories, and an unnamed sailor, who, via Bridgmont’s subtle yet expressive body language, was able to communicate quite a lot without uttering a single word.

As an actor, Andrew has performed on both stage and screen – his CV boasts roles at the Globe and the National Theatre to name but two venues, as well as feature films and several TV roles. Although his parents were both actors – and very involved with Joan Littlewood. and the Theatre Workshop. at Stratford East – Andrew hadn’t originally planned on an acting career.

Instead, he embarked on a Foundation course at Central Saint Martins and went on to graduate from the Royal Academy. From there, he got involved with workshops at Ovalhouse, which was – and still is – “a home to experimental, radical and overlooked artists seeking to make theatre and performance that speaks to a world beyond the mainstream”. His acting career evolved from a keen interest in writing and directing; as he says, “with writing and directing, you have to put all the pieces of a story together whereas with acting your character is a component.”

When asked what the best moment is on stage, he says, “It’s immediately after Press Night. That’s when you actually feel it’s launched; as if you’re launching a ship. Once it goes out into the world there’s a sense of relief.”

We talked about the differences between acting on stage and doing film work. “You have to know how to project your voice on stage, whereas in film there are mics. There are also re-takes; on stage, that’s it – once you’re on, you’re ON.”

Whether it’s acting, directing or writing, it’s clear that story-telling is at the heart of what Andrew does, and The Wider Earth is certainly a great story.

The Wider Earth
The Darwin Centre at The Natural History Museum, SW7 5BD

RUNNING TIME
Approx 2 hours10 min, includes 15 minute interval.

AGE RECOMMENDATION
Suitable for ages 8+. Puppetry and visual elements will appeal to younger people, but some scientific content may go over their heads.

INFO & TICKET PRICES
thewiderearth.com
Great seats from £19.50

Images courtesy of and © Mark Doue