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?
Ensonglopedia of Animals is a riot and Hinton is a passionate and imaginative entertainer
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. Before the show, we are provided with pencils (Ensonglopedia-embossed and free, too!) and a paper grid displaying the animals featured in his show - the written details explaining that we can fill in interesting facts about each, throughout the performance, if we so wish. While we’re waiting, Hinton emerges to energetically announce that the start is a little delayed due to a technical hitch concerning speakers. However, it’s not long before we’re ushered to our seats and this animal extravaganza kicks off.
Nominated for a myriad of awards and Winner of the Best Children’s Show (Brighton Fringe 2017) for previous creative offerings, Hinton, sporting a safari suit and spouting knowledge like a scientific fountain, bamboozles his audience for the next hour with the facts and figures about 26 creatures. The information is packaged in songs of his own composition, delivered in a variety of styles and genres. With boundless vitality this self-confessed ‘science communicator’ bounces and cavorts across the stage using colourful props and costumes, accent and pitch variations, and situation changes too (as in his ditty of the Giant African Millipede), all in his attempt to entertainingly educate. And educate he does in this family show for families as Hinton pulls in his own kin: his sisters backing an ethereal number about the Leafy Sea Dragon, and his wife, Jo, providing quality accompaniment on the accordion. This entertainer manages to keep the attention of all the children in the audience for the show’s duration, even though the replacement speakers do make the set, at times, a little too shouty, resulting in one girl constantly covering her ears. Hinton’s show is generally fun although some of the complexity of content might be pitched a little high for the audience age. Perhaps the ‘animal tree’ with corresponding timelines is flashed up a little too quickly for younger audience members to make sense of, and I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary.
However, if my children were still under 9 would I take them to this alphabetical animal parade? The answer has to be yes – Ensonglopedia of Animals is a riot and Hinton is a passionate and imaginative entertainer who deserves full marks for the energy, creativity and lyrical content of his work.