The show is in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre on Saturday, January 18 at 11am and 2pm.
John promises you will come away a lot the wiser, but it is also fun and entertaining.
“I am first and foremost a theatre-maker, but I am also just a big, big fan of science. There is that weird moment at school where you get to select your subjects, and I was completely torn between the sciences and the arts.
“I chose the arts, but I am very happy now to find a way to combine them with the sciences a few decades later!
“It was suggested to me that a good way of doing theatre was to make solo shows because they are cheaper to tour, so I was looking to do that, and one of my all-time heroes had always been Charles Darwin. I thought what better subject for my first solo show, especially as I started to write the show the year before his big anniversary in 2009.
“So that was just over a decade ago and was my first show, all about him, and people said it was great and ‘Who is the next scientist you are going to do?’ I said I didn’t know who it was going to be, but in the end I thought if that’s what the public wants, then that’s what the public is going to get… and so I made a show about Albert Einstein and then I did a show about Marie Curie, not obvious casting for me, but it made sense.
“And those three shows are what I called the Scientrilogy, three musical comedies.”
Next came the challenge of the next show, with the knowledge that it was time to do something rather different.
“I have always been in and out of bands, and I wanted a format that meant that I was not just repeating what I had done before so that I could do something that was more like a gig.”
And that’s how John hatched the Ensonglopedia idea. His first Ensonglopedia was of science; animals is his second.
With the first one, John made it even more complicated for himself, with each song either in a style beginning with or on an instrument beginning with the same letter as the subject of the song. Hence an a cappella song about atoms and beat boxing song about the big bang.
“I then launched Ensonglopedia of Animals in 2018. I decided I didn’t want to go into the genres idea, but there are still a huge variety of musical styles in all these songs about animals for each letter of the alphabet.
“I don’t do them in alphabetical order. I do them in phylogenetic order. I start with the human and then go through the animals that are closely related to humans, getting further and further away from human.
“The least closely related to the human is the sponge, and the final song in the show is about a sponge.”
John is quick to point out: “You aren’t going to find songs about fluffy bunnies in there. There are no fluffy bunnies in the show. A lot of the animals are very unusual.
“Most people, even the adults, won’t have heard of a lot of the animals that I sing about.
“It is a show about how wide and diverse the animal kingdom is, and there are also some parts of the animal kingdom that are unstable in the sense of nearing extinction. There are three or four songs about animals that are endangered, and we talk about the reasons for that.
“There are a lot of songs to get through, as you can imagine, but most of the information is in the content of the songs.
“There are bits of explanation sometimes between the songs, and I also ask the audience questions. There are in-between song elements, but talking about deforestation and what is happening to the coral reefs, that’s all in the songs.”