“I’d like to apologise to the roundworms who didn’t get a look-in”
This Sunday sees award-winning songwriter John Hinton perform the terrifically scientific Ensonglopedia of Animals. In the meantime, he’s given us the lowdown on what we can look forward to from the show.
What can we expect from Ensonglopedia of Animals?
Expect to meet exactly twenty-six animal species – each one beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. But don’t expect to have heard of any of them: this is not a show about fluffy bunnies and giraffes, it’s a show about all the really weird things, some of which don’t look anything like animals. And expect music, in lots of different styles – from rock ’n’ roll to bossa nova, from flamenco to rap.
What made you think of the idea for the Ensonglopedia series?
I was the frontman of a band first, an actor and playwright second, and a non-scientist-who-pretends-to-be-a-scientist third. The Ensonglopedias are perfect ways of bringing together all these three interests.
Are there any animals which didn’t make the cut that you’d like to apologise to?
There are thought to be at least eight million animal species in the world… and I had to pick 26. I tried to be as fair as possible, by spreading my selection as widely as possible across the animal kingdom. But the animal kingdom is divided into roughly 35 different phyla, so not even every phylum is included. I would like to apologise, therefore, to the roundworms, comb jellies, ribbon worms, velvet worms, bryozoans, gastrotrichs, loricifers, xenacoelomorphs and placozoans, who didn’t even get a look-in.
Do you have a fear of any animals?
I have a fear of animal extinction. As should we all. Fear of the animals themselves… well, as you can see in the documentary about the making of the show, I was a little squeamish about meeting some of the sharks, snakes and starfish (anything that starts with an ‘s’, basically).
I’m 27 years of age and I’m genuinely addicted to the Portuguese Man-o-War song. This isn’t a question, it’s just something I thought you should know.
Thank you! Well, our age recommendation for the show is 5-105, which you’re not even quarter of the way through. That song was also the favourite of one of the reviewers who saw the show at Brighton Fringe.
What’s the best place/venue you’ve ever performed?
In terms of high profile prestige: I’ve performed a few times at the Royal Albert Hall. In terms of beautiful faraway places: definitely Australia – I went there with shows twice last year – I just can’t keep away.
In a world of infinite possibilities, where would you love to perform Ensonglopedia?
I’ve always dreamed that one day I’d reach the dizzy heights of Farnham Maltings…
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Charles Darwin. He was the subject of the first full-length show I wrote, which I’m still touring, so he’s been very important for my career. His love of the natural world, and his ability to think laterally and see the bigger picture, especially in the face of so much establishment opposition, are truly inspirational.
John Hinton performs his Ensonglopedia of Animals on Sunday 27 January at 11am and 2pm. Tickets are available here.