What have jalapeno Kranksy sausages in a roll with sauerkraut and gherkins to do with Charles Darwin? If it were left to John Hinton to tell you, it might come in a pretty tuneless song which he’d sing to you accompanying himself on a guitar. It would be delivered with energy, exuberance and liveliness and no doubt you’d find it was somehow connected to a barnacle.
Quickly providing the answer to get on to the erudite stuff, I can tell you it has nothing much to do with the show but it has a lot to do with the venue for Origin of the Species, one part of John Hinton’s Scientrilogy. It is performed at The Arch at Holden Street Theatres which is a boutique theatrical haven next to the Soccer Stadium in Hindmarsh, Adelaide. Once an Anglican church built in 1850, it and surrounding buildings now house two performance spaces in these heritage buildings. Before a show, folk enjoy a drink at tables around the place and whatever’s cooked outside on a barbecue or food truck from an interesting menu. Did I mention friendly? Staff are busy and friendly, most of them volunteers, and patrons are relaxed as they wait for word that it’s time to become an audience. The pleasant atmosphere and bonhomie suggests they’ve been there before and enjoyed the atmosphere and what’s on offer. Of course, at the moment there’s a pretty full programme as The Fringe courses through Adelaide having grabbed whatever spaces it can in which to perform. If there’s money to spare I’d advocate a bit more light for audiences to get to their seats and some air conditioning to alleviate stuffiness and warmth in The Arch. However, there’s no stuffiness and plenty of warmth in this show.
Heavily bearded John Hinton is the sole performer, with technical assistance by Ashley Smyth and Eric Morel and directed by Daniel Goldman in this galloping tale of a young Shropshire lad’s determination to follow his urgent need to know about things (especially barnacles) and the fervour that never lets him leave an inquiry unfinished. For instance, what did that creature eat and drink, how did it sleep, mate and grow – and, for goodness sake, evolve? His father has other ideas which include that he be a doctor and then a vicar. A scientist whose main interest is creatures is not on Dad’s agenda for his son.
John’s representation of his irascible parent, his caring cousin Emma, his uncle Josiah Wedgwood (yes, that one) and various other characters in his life leave the audience in no doubt as to the family problems he has to overcome to follow his own ambitions. But, just in case any members of the audience aren’t sure, they are roped in to the performance in several ways including singing to John’s guitar, “I’m a primate, I’m a primate and I’m proud.”
He takes us through his childhood, youth and development into the man taken on a four year sea journey where he tests his survival of the fittest theory and his belief that all species of life have common ancestors. He writes books and then... oh then the realisation and world-shattering publication that man is descended from primates – all delivered with a kind of manic glee, joyful exposition, frantic delivery and charm which has John leaping around on stage and in the audience with a fair imitation of a happy chimp. When he’s done, you realise you’ve learnt a lot and it was fun doing so. No better education than that. Apart from The Origin of the Species, John is also currently performing in his Scientrilogy Albert Einstein: Relativitively* Speaking and Marie Curie: The element in the room. John’s speaking voice carries pretty well but, when he occasionally sings with guitar, it is pretty ordinary. His lyrics need a good lyricist and his music a tune now and again but his enthusiasm is infectious, he’s humorous, engaging – and he knows his Darwin.
Fringe performers face a hefty task, more often than not barely known, their material confronting, new ideas in a plethora of other performances hard to find, often far, far from home, inexperienced about Australian audiences and frequently facing too many empty seats. But, bless their courageous hearts, they give their all and more often than not give hugely satisfying entertainment and new thought to their audiences. They deserve our support and genuine encouragement.
* This is not a typo.
John Hinton, Trangram Theatre and Holden Street Theatres presents
John Hinton's Scientrilogy: The Origin of the Species
by John Hinton and Jo Eagle.
Director Daniel Goldman
Venue: Holden Street Theatres | 34 Holden Street, Hindmarsh SA
Dates: 13 February 2018 – 18 March 2018