The full title of this show is about as descriptive as they come. The origin of species by means of natural selection or the survival of (r)evolutionary theories in the face of scientific and ecclesiastical objections: being a musical comedy about Charles Darwin (1809–1882) delivers exactly what it promises: plenty of singing, lots of laughs and a pacy romp through key moments in the life and career of the father of the science of evolution.
When we first meet the great man he’s happily faffing about in his study with his collection of barnacles. Discombobulation ensues, however, when a letter reveals a fellow naturalist has prepared an abstract on a new theory, the Origin of Species.
Darwin is shocked into action. He’s been putting off the writing of his own book for almost 20 years, but the time for procrastination is over. He must revisit his research and get it into print before Alfred Russel Wallace beats him to it!
With a collection of props, a high level of energy and the ability to swap characters at breakneck speed, John Hinton (the show’s writer and the sole actor on stage) carries us along on this tale of a very proper English gentleman who overcame family objections to embark on a quest of scientific exploration.
Darwin sailed the world’s seas without strife but found it hard to fit back into society when he returned from his travels. His new ideas were not easily accepted, and he found himself in a spot of bother when his theory put God out of the picture (an awkward realisation for an almost-clergyman). The revolutionary evolutionary was deluged with mail when his findings were finally published, and the arguments continue to this day.
The Origin of Species … is one work in a suite of three plays – John Hinton’s Scientrilogy – and if you’ve seen any of them, you’ll want to see them all. They’re comedy, but don’t get the impression that there’s been any artistic licence taken with the facts; the content is rich with historical detail and has been given the thumbs-up by professors at the University of Sussex.
There’s a lot of monkeying about in this never less than thoroughly entertaining jaunt through the story behind Darwin’s discoveries. It’s a voyage of fun for primates young or old.
John Hinton’s Scientrilogy: Origin of Species … is showing at The Arch (Holden Street Theatres) until March 15. See more InDaily Fringe reviews and stories here.