Mr Darwin's Tree

Mr. Darwin's Tree is one of three new plays airing at the Fringe by award-winning writer and director Murray Watts. This one-man show starring Andrew Harrison follows the life of Charles Darwin from his journey on the Beagle through his battles with science and religion and culminates in his death.A one-man show is a notoriously difficult terrain to handle, especially when the single actor is required to play multiple roles, but Watts and Harrison manage to navigate the course competently. Although at times Harrison's side-stepping to indicate a change in character is amusing for the wrong reasons, it serves its purpose and Harrison's impressive dexterity between characters more than makes up for the odd stage technique. Harrison plays not only himself and Darwin, but almost every person Darwin encounters in the play. His capability to transform into characters and not caricatures must be commended; his emotional manipulation of the audience is outstanding. The direction is very well thought-out and the most is made of every character, anecdote or explanation.Watts must be applauded for his writing: it is accessible, informative and entertaining. Often with plays of this nature it is very easy to either patronise the audience with reductive simplicities or blind them with complicated science. Watts strikes a perfect balance and the audience easily invests in the characters he creates. The script has a great depth to it which explores not only science, but religion, the divine intricacies of the soul, and what it is to be human. Unfortunately, towards the end, the play tends to drag and feel lengthy, though Harrison never drops his energy or focus for a second.This touching portrayal of a man at the front line of science is a rare treat and a very welcome departure from poorly researched, shallow and self-indulgent examples of the same genre.

Reviews by Stephanie Bartlett

The Blurb

Charles Darwin’s extraordinary life, from Beagle voyage to the world-shattering Origin of Species, in this mesmerising performance by Andrew Harrison. From the acclaimed premiere at Westminster Abbey. Written and directed by Fringe First winning Murray Watts.