Holden Street Theatres
Until 15 Mar 2018

Review by Thomas Filsell

John Hinton has his audience complicit from the beginning in his unrelenting comic guided tour of the life and achievements of the 19th century (r)evolutionary biologist, Charles Darwin. Audience participation is not mandatory, but even the most reluctant theatre-goer will derive satisfaction from participating in Hinton’s clever comedic and musical antics. He has us singing, acting, and playing along at various points throughout the show to round out the narrative, or pull-off a joke (and he even lets us have the punchline).

But, don’t take this to mean that Hinton is in need of any help in keeping things interesting. He plays the part of Darwin, and Darwin’s father, wife, cousins, uncle, colleagues, friends, and just about every other character significant in Darwin’s life, from his brow-beaten schoolboy years through his development into the scientific iconoclast we know today, all done seamlessly, and all by himself. His quick change impressions and mime-like physicality make a one man show seem like it had a cast of many.

Hinton was zany, silly, and absolutely indefatigable. He was on the move from the beginning of the show, right through to the end, and maintained level of energy and standard of vitality that could not fail to impress. His musical talents were high-calibre. He wrote a mean tune with some very clever and often amusing lyrics, and played the guitar like a rock star. His singing voice was below par, but his charming determination, comedic sensibilities, and infectious enthusiasm more than made up for it.

His writing was clever and factual. A newcomer to Darwin would stand to learn a lot from “Origin of Species”, but more about Darwin the man, than Darwin the scientist. There was clearly a solid research basis underpinning the show and a sound understanding of the science, but the subject matter was more human, more relatable, and much more entertaining than a simple lecture on Darwin’s theory of evolution.

John Hinton’s “Origin of Species” is a funny and surprisingly accessible first step in undertaking a trilogy of dramatized biographies of significant scientists. Next step is Albert Einstein, then Marie Curie. Clearly Hinton has a personal interest in his subject matter, and it is that enthusiasm that shows through in his performance and makes his show so enjoyable.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)