Mr Darwin’s Tree – review

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Murray Watts’ play Mr Darwin’s Tree, performed at St Mark’s on the 2nd and 3rd of November, had its audience gripped from its quiet opening – a man walking on and responding to bird song – to its thoughtful, heartfelt conclusion. It was simply but effectively presented – a flexible, interesting set with good sounds and lighting by Richard Peroni.

It is, as Murray Watts himself says, a play and not a lecture or a debate, so it presents the man (Charles Darwin) as a living character who shares with us both his inner wrestling about faith and love and his joyful wonder at the world.

At the heart of the play is Darwin’s relationship with his wife Emma. She was a convinced Christian and he, driven by an apparently unquenchable scientific curiosity, became increasingly agnostic.

Mr Darwin’s Tree was at its most touching – and sometimes its most funny – in bringing us close-ups of Charles Darwin with his family – with his gruff father, with his beloved daughter Annie and, of course, with Emma. In a sense, it’s as much a play about love as it is one about science, although the science – that unquenchable pursuit of the truth – is also woven into its fabric.

The play doesn’t preach or tell us what to think; rather it encourages us to empathise with the man in his anguish and his delight in the world.

It’s impossible to talk about Mr Darwin’s Tree without acknowledging the power and precision of Andrew Harrison’s performance. He told us the story – and played all the characters. Sometimes, with incredible deftness, he handed over a book or a letter and you could almost swear you saw two people making the exchange. And when he walked on and listened to the birds singing, you could see the birds as well as hear them.

Nick Warburton

Mr Darwin’s Tree

Mr Darwin's Poster

We are delighted to announce that St Mark’s will be bringing two performances of the highly acclaimed play, Mr Darwin’s Tree, to its church stage in November. Written by Murray Watts (yes, there is a connection to our own lay reader, Andrew Watts) this show was commissioned by the think tank Theos in 2009 for the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and premiered in Westminster Abbey.

Andrew Harrison’s compelling 75-minute solo performance focuses on the relationship between the agnostic Charles Darwin and his Christian wife, Emma, and takes us on a fascinating journey through Darwin’s life and though some of his own exploration of questions of science, faith, love and human destiny.

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The Saturday matinee performance will be followed at by a Q&A with Andrew Harrison and Denis Alexander, of the Faraday Institute of Science and Religion.

Book early to avoid disappointment!

MR DARWIN’S TREE
St Mark’s Church
Friday 2 November 8 pm • Saturday 3 November 3pm
Saturday 4.30pm Q&A with guest panel – open to all

Tickets £10 (Under 18s free)
from John Brady 01223 353668 / jwb9687@gmail.com