"...dazzlingly good chamber ensemble…
exuberantly expressive, intimate style…
gorgeously idiomatic playing’
The Times
Friday 24 Feb 2006
Daily Telegraph
Geoffrey Norris

'Up the hill from Shrewsbury station there is a statue of Charles Darwin, erected by Shropshire Horticultural Society in 1897.? A little further on, you come to the Darwin Shopping Centre.? Darwin's name is not exactly everywhere in Shrewsbury, but, being his birthplace, the town can justifiably trumpet its famous son, and it was an apt venue for this single performance of Darwin's Dream, a new piece of multi-media community music theatre.

The short show, designed by Angela Simpson, is very watchable, and it is possible to envisage Philippe Cherbonnier's direction loosening up and filling out before Darwin's Dream reappears at London's Albert Hall next month.? With all Dawin's tomes and theories distilled into an hour.? Stephen Webster has obviously had to exercise some natural selection in compiling the liberetto.? The origin of species is one strand.? "Where do we come from?" sings Darwin (Robert Rice), while we look at striking video projections (by Ben Osborne, Raine Smith and Claire Simpson) of rain forests, giant tortoises and marine life, with children from local schools producing aqueous and creepy-crawly noises.

The other main theme is heredity.? To music aping Mozart's Magic Flute, Dr Evelyn (Catherine May) descends as a Queen of the Night figure to explain the principle of DNA, an unknown concept in Darwin's day, though we were here presumably looking to the future.? Joe the fossil-hunter (Andy Morton) sings a paean to DNA, before the show ends with a big number for the excellent girls' choir chanting the message, "Remember we are all connected/ And life on earth must be protected."

You might not come away fit for a BSc in biology after watching Darwin's Dream, especially as the words are not always crystal clear. "Genome", "microbe" and "chromosome" do come through, and pose unusual problems of musical treatment, but Graham Treacher's score is clever.? It strikes a balance between the anonymous tune-spinning that seems to go hand in hand with community projects, and a grittier, Britten-cum-Stravinsky style that the instrumentalists of the Fibonacci Sequence conducted by Patrick Bailey, articulate with spirit.

So much skill and effort have gone into Darwin's Dream that it would be a pity if it became extinct.? It might even mutate into a mascot for the Darwin bicentenary in 2009.'