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Making an art of evolution - new music theatre production unravels Darwin's theories

External Sites:
-Shrewsbury Darwin Festival
-Galapagos Conservation Trust
(Imperial College is not responsible for the content of these external internet sites)

For immediate use
Tuesday 21 February 2006

An original piece of theatre illustrating Charles Darwin's theory of evolution through music and dance receives its world premiere in Shrewsbury this week.

Darwin's Dream is a collaboration between Imperial College London science writer and lecturer Stephen Webster Opens in new window and composer Graham Treacher. It aims to communicate the themes of evolution to children in a fresh and accessible way.

Based on Haydn's The Creation, Darwin's Dream imagines the founder of evolution meeting modern children and challenging them to explore how his theory has advanced since his death in 1882. Their quest takes them from the oceans where life is believed to have begun, to Africa to meet a fossil hunter looking for evidence of the earliest humans. Stephen Webster comments:

Detail from banner created by Shrewsbury children for the performance

"Darwin knew that evolution would be an ongoing area of scientific quest and he was very curious about what would be uncovered as time passed, so the idea that he would want to know what we have since discovered is entirely realistic."

The creators are working with three adult soloists, a chamber orchestra and a chorus of 100 children from Shrewsbury primary schools. Teachers and parents were also involved in the development of the piece, helping pupils to make costumes and create interludes such as a dance about DNA. Stephen describes how the subject matter lends itself to dramatisation:

"There are lots of nice things you can do with evolution in terms of musical metaphors - life emerging slowly, dramatic extinctions and so on. It's great to see how something quite abstract can really capture children's imaginations."

The production will be supported by an exhibition of pictures, models and other materials produced by the schools to illustrate evolution, as well as installations of sounds and images provided by the Galapagos Conservation Trust.

Darwin's Dream will be premiered on Friday 24 February 2006 as part of the Shrewsbury Darwin Festival, with the cast including children from Coleham Primary, Greenfields Primary, St Giles' Primary, St George's Primary and the Shropshire Girls' Choir. It will take place at the Music Hall Shrewsbury at 2pm and 7.30pm.

The piece will receive its London premiere at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 20 March 2006.

The Darwin Music Theatre Project is funded by a Wellcome Trust Engaging Science grant, the Rosalie Inskip Charitable Trust and the Golsoncott Foundation.

Members of the media wishing to attend should contact Lorna Neill on

Photos of the production will be available.

For further information contact:

Abigail Smith
Imperial College London Press Office
Tel: 020 7594 6701

Notes to editors:

About the Darwin Music Theatre Project

Composer: Graham Treacher
Librettist: Stephen Webster
Director: Philippe Cherbonnier
Designer: Angela Simpson
Visual artist: Raine Smith, working with wildlife artist Ben Osborne
Interlude coordinator and sound artist: Duncan Chapman
Project manager: Judith Robinson

About Imperial College London

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