Brighton Fringe 2022
Phunky physics, catchy chemistry and bangin’ biology. Local world-renowned science-singer-songwriter John Hinton has written songs on all topics under (and above) the sun. His multi-award-winning peer-reviewed musical science shows have toured the world and captured the imagination of thousands.
In ‘Now That’s What I Call A Lot Of Songs About Science’, he presents a fast-paced ‘best-of’ compilation of songs old and new.
John Hinton is immediately engaging, a delightfully shambolic presence welcoming children and parents into the audience, finding them seats, giving instructions for trying out his new augmented reality app. As is quite acceptable for any kind of science show this was a bit of an experiment and therefore things didn’t go exactly to plan, especially if you didn’t have an iPhone. But to concentrate on technical hitches would do John Hinton’s performance a great disservice.
As it says on the tin, in the app and on the posters this show contains a lot of songs about science, one hundred and seventy four to be precise, so there had to be some kind of selection procedure to choose what he actually sung. This was managed by voting on the back projected options by show of hands and was fun in itself – children and adults enthusiastically joined in.
I think it’s always difficult to balance the needs of the parents and a fairly wide age range of children but John is obviously experienced in doing this and keeps things moving along. To give you an example of the range of his audience there were two little girls, probably aged about five sitting on high stools near the back of this sold out show, but even fifty minutes in they were still both transfixed and actively engaging in all the votes and participation, while at the other extreme, there was a young man who replied to the question as to what DNA stood for very quickly (he certainly beat me to the count) with a very confident and clearly pronounced “deoxyribonucleic acid“.
There were a couple of times when I thought his between songs patter was probably a bit lost on the children in the audience (something about Eurovision song titles and his song was a bit lost on me too) , but the essence of his performance is that he was interacting with all levels of the audience all the time.
I had begun the show wishing I had a grandchild with me (well wishing I had a grandchild actually), but a few minutes in I was enjoying the show on its own terms as an adult.
The songs are the show, and they come in all sorts of shapes and styles and with all sorts of multimedia back-up. It was a shame that his accordionist companion had injured her hand, which ruled out some of the songs, but he was never going to run out of entertaining material.
To pick out individual songs would be churlish, but the song Birth (like all the songs from the show it’s from John’s Ensonglopedia, and you can find it on Youtube) was particularly notable for its careful delineation of which orifice one emerges from as a baby, in simple, understandable age appropriate terms, and was of course hilariously funny.
The DNA/ DnB song (that stands for deoxyribonucleic acid / Drum and Base in case you didn’t know) is a scientifically accurate portrayal of the famous molecule of life and a great rap in its own right. The Portuguese Man of War song is suitably menacing and witty and informative as well – did you know? – just listen to the song and find out.
Of course he’s a great musician and very confident in his material, working across different musical genres. There was only one song that wasn’t his – but he sang Tom Lehrer’s The Element Song perfectly.
It’s an hour long show, but it never flagged, John keeps the pace up and everybody was staying aboard – I even noticed the bar staff watching with big smiles on their faces. The science was entirely correct as far as I could see, but more to the point it was tremendous fun for all. I went in expecting to just watch and review a children’s show, I came out having had a great time, having watched a tremendously entertaining performance.