Space Ape

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan


ONCE upon a time, an ape set foot on the moon. No, really. Because - as story-teller Andy Cannon reminds us - homo sapiens is, anthropologically speaking, a Great Ape. And Neil Armstrong certainly walked on the moon - young Andy’s parents woke him in the early hours of July 21, 1969 to watch the grainy television footage of that historic lunar landing. Even now, as he recounts the moment, you catch the boyhood wonderment that has never left him: Space Ape - presented in association with Edinburgh International Science Festival - is his compellingly evocative celebration of that endeavour, and of the daring dreams that travelled with it.

At first, those dreams are related by writer and performer Cannon as a matter of fact. His narrative is alive with the cherished details of that Apollo 11 mission, his inner child - ever resourceful! - emerges as he transforms everyday household objects into space-kit and beguiles us into believing that a silver Thermos flask is the rocket... Thereafter Space Ape shifts into another dimension.

When Cannon saw Kenny Hunter’s sculpture of a chimpanzee in a space-suit, it stirred his imagination into “what if...?” mode and engendered a wish projection story about a girl, a chimp, and a 2036 manned mission to Mars. Again, like a cosmic Pied Piper, Cannon beckons us into suspending our disbelief and - abetted by astute design, soundscore and lighting - takes us on a journey that highlights our generic kinship with apes while echoing those 1969 dreams that dared to defy earth-bound scepticism.

Cannon is in his element, here. The fabric of space, yes - but also the limitless realm of inquisitive imagination. And if his words dance, shimmy and leap, so too does his agile movement as he escapes gravity and takes story-telling into fabulous free-fall.