Do you ever find yourself singing The Bare Necessities? Or breathily repeating David Attenborough’s iconic narration? If so, the Ensonglopedia of Animals is the show for you. Promising fun for the entire family, songwriter John Hinton leads you through a host of brilliant original tunes inspired by all of the amusing and remarkable wonders of the animal kingdom. Sure to make you laugh and learn in equal measure, you’ll be amazed at how easily he’ll get your kids to be fully engrossed in evolutionary history.
I'm putting ignorance to rest one species at a time/In the only way that I know how – and that's rhyme.
We caught up with him to discover why he decided to combine science, music and animals.
What inspired the Ensonglopedia of Animals?
This is the sequel to last year's Ensonglopedia of Science. Science is quite a broad topic, so I thought I'd pick something a little narrower. Well, that was the idea. I wasn't aware at that stage quite how many millions of species of animals there are (two-ish, is the answer, in case you're wondering) and how much fascinating stuff there is to say about them.
What’s your favourite creature and why?
It's always been the duckbilled platypus, perhaps because I identify with its collage nature - beak of a duck, foot of an otter, tail of a beaver, venomous spurs like some kind of snake, plus it lays eggs. I'm a bit of a collage myself – part-Swede part-Brit, part-thesp part-science-nerd, though I'm largely lacking in venom and I don't lay eggs. I've never met one. My new favourite animal since researching the show, which I have met in the flesh, is another Australian – the quokka.
How have you found the Brighton Fringe to be so far?
It's the don. It's home territory for me – I've lived most of my life either in or near Brighton – so the audiences tend to be really friendly and supportive of my latest crazy ideas for shows. The venue staff are great, the other shows I've seen so far have been great, the weather's been great, and hey, it's Brighton, what's not to love?
Which scientist do you admire the most?
Got to be Charles Darwin. Had to assemble so much data, from such a broad range of species, and had to battle against so much prejudice and received wisdom, firstly to figure out the bare bones of how evolution works, then to dare to publish his theory in the face of so much objection, and then to continue defending his vision against all the naysayers for the rest of his life. He changed everything, as far as I'm concerned.
What’s the weirdest animal fact you’ve come across?
Humans and elephants are the only animals who have chins.
What do you hope your audience will take away from your show?
A free pencil that says "Ensonglopedia" on it. Yes, really. Please take them away. I have far too many.
What is the hardest word you’ve had to rhyme?
Well, I did some research into what it actually means to be an animal. And one of the key technical differences between animals and all other types of living thing is that animal cells form a sphere called a "blastula". So I had to rhyme with that. And it wasn't easy.
Give us a taste of your rhymes?
Here's one that pretty much sums up the whole show:
I'm putting ignorance to rest one species at a time
In the only way that I know how – and that's rhyme.
John loves science. He’s also a trained theatre maker, who studied at the Jacques Lecoq school in Paris. It’s his unique combination of the two that led to the creation of his 'Scientrilogy' of musical comedies. Playing scientists as varied as Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Marie Curie, his shows have all toured internationally and won awards at Edinburgh, Brighton and Adelaide Fringe Festivals, and at London's Offies.
Photo Credit: Alex Brenner