Do Animals Have Chins? Songwriter John Hinton Reveals The Surprising Truth
Image Credit: Alex Brenner

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.

Related Listings

Ensonglopedia of Animals

Ensonglopedia of Animals

Did you know that you share 50% DNA with the humble banana? Unicorns do exist (well, kind of) in the shape of the narwhal and that the Portuguese man o' war is not one creature but actually several, working together in perfect unison to make a colonial organism?These, and a truck-load of other fascinating facts about the critters with which we share our world, are enthusiastically imparted by John Hinton in his hour-long Ensonglopedia of Animals... 

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this article has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now