Sligo's Blue Raincoat theatre company returns to live duties from 29 Sept - 9 Oct with a new devised piece based on an extraordinary incident that happened during Captain Scott's ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole - actor John Carty introduces Hunting Darwin below.

Blue Raincoat theatre company's latest production sees the company heading back to the icy unknown world of the Antarctic - but with a completely new story to tell.

In 2016, their award-winning production Shackleton, drew on the inspirational story of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 ill-fated Trans Antarctic expedition and the gargantuan effects to survive.

During the research for that show, we came upon another epic story that we think deserves to be retold. It centres on a scientific voyage carried out during an Antarctic winter by Henry Bowers, Apsley Cherry-Gerrard and Edward Wilson during Scott’s 1910 -1913 attempt to reach the South Pole. The goal was to recover eggs of the emperor penguin for study as it was thought at the time that the flightless penguin might shed light on an evolutionary link between reptiles and birds through its embryo. Over 35 days, the 3 scientists crossed the Ross Ice Shelf under extreme conditions, in complete darkness and with daily temperatures of −60 °C and below. All three men, barely alive, returned from the penguin rookery with their 3 egg specimens, which were then brought back to England but largely ignored.

We wanted to tell this intriguing story, but we needed to find an interesting way to tell it. The director, Niall Henry, has been interested in the area of shadow play for a while and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to explore.

Shadow play, also known as shadow puppetry, is an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment which uses flat articulated cut-out figures (shadow puppets) which are held between a source of light and a translucent screen or scrim. Shadow play is popular in various cultures, among both children and adults in many countries around the world. More than 20 countries are known to have shadow show troupes. Shadow play is an old tradition, and it has a long history in Southeast Asia. It has been an ancient art and a living folk tradition in China, India, Iran and Nepal.

But for us, in the west of Ireland it was completely new. So, we went on a steep learning curve. We got some puppet makers to make puppets, constructed a screen and lights and workshopped the idea over a period of time earlier this year. We got some invaluable advice and encouragement from Richie Lambert, whose family have been immersed in puppetry for generations.

We are still in rehearsal, and the process so far has been very interesting. Each day offers a different challenge and each new aspect of the unfolding story we want to tell demands a fresh creative approach and openness to divergent ideas.

Luckily, we, the makers, Sandra O Malley, Brian F. Devaney, Chakra O Connor and I have the imaginative presence of projected images and sound provided by Joe Hunt, lighting by Barry McKinney and Set Design by Jamie Vartan and Jocelyn Clarke as Dramaturg to create a world in which to play.

Hunting Darwin runs from September 29th – October 9th at The Factory Performance Space, Sligo - find out more here. Pics: Steve Rogers