And it was during the voyage of the Beagle that FitzRoy’s religious orthodoxy came face-to-face with Darwin’s early theories of evolution. From discussions in FitzRoy’s cabin in the 1830s off the coast of South America to the heated debates of today, the clash of these two geniuses has been felt for centuries as people try to explain the world through the prism of creationism vs. evolution.
DARWIN & FITZROY is the first published play in nearly 150 years that authentically portrays Charles Darwin and Robert FitzRoy, two iconic figures in English history, and captures their turbulent, complex and competitive 35-year relationship that started with the voyage of the Beagle in 1831 and ended with FitzRoy’s suicide in 1865.
Playwright Juliet Aykroyd was originally approached by Julian Hunt, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, CB, FRS, who graciously wrote the Foreword to this publication, when he was the Chief Executive of the UK Meteorological Office after he had seen her play about the architect John Vanbrugh. Lord Hunt was the ninth Director of the Meteorological Office, Admiral Robert FitzRoy being the first, and he was interested in bringing FitzRoy’s contributions during the first half of the 19th century to light; contributions that included his commanding of the Beagle and the invention of the daily weather report. Drawing on her personal history as a professional actor and as an award-winning playwright, it was Juliet Aykroyd’s idea that the play should be about the stormy relationship between Charles Darwin and Robert FitzRoy.
The first performances of the play were at the University of Reading and the Bloomsbury Theatre in London when Lord Hunt was retiring his post in 1997 and subsequent performances included one at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 2009.
Juliet Aykroyd was born in India and educated in the UK and Italy. She has a BA degree in English from St Anne’s College, Oxford, and a Diploma in Acting from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Her acting career includes three seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company, leading roles in repertory companies, and several London fringe productions. Her most recent stage performances were as Laura in a “Day by the Sea” (Finborough 2008) and as Lotta Bainbridge in “Waiting in the Wings” (Pentameters 2010), and her television appearances include Anthea in “Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads” (1974) and Linda in “Open All Hours” (1976).
Ms Aykroyd worked for many years as tutor and director of acting and text at RADA, Marymount College London, and the London Academy of Performing Arts. Her handbook for student actors, “Performing Shakespeare”, is published by Samuel French.
Ms Aykroyd’s career as a playwright began in 1990 when she won Second Prize in the TEXACO/NYT competition for her play “Silver Hercules”. She gained First Prize for “Nancy Cunard” (Pentameters) in the Oz Whitehead/Irish Pen Competition 2002 and runner-up in the Surrey Writers Competition 2003. Other plays of hers include “Accommodation” (Cockpit), “Vanbrugh’s Castles” (Greenwich Theatre), “The Clean-Up”, and “The Children’s Room” (Horseshoe TC). Her plays for young people include “The Only One” and “Hooligan” (Arden Theatre 2007).
Ms Aykroyd lives in London and in Somerset, UK.