Review: Enos (Voila! Europe, online)

Donald Craigie’s show, Enos, is now available on-demand as part of Voila! Europe’s 10th anniversary season.

A multimedia solo performance in which Enos the chimpanzee looks back at Earth, the only place he knows as home, Enos is a “handmade theatrical premiere composed of movement, memories and pieces of cardboard”.

Who was Enos? During the early days of space exploration, he was the second chimpanzee sent into space (in 1961 and 1962, dying of unrelated causes in November 1962), and the only one to achieve Earth orbit.

Craigie’s show has music of the time, audio interviews, and video footage from the missions. A shot at the start brings Enos into focus by shadow play (a detail I found quite touching), then we watch Craigie play out a role by signing, stretching, and dancing, headphones on and performing in a tight attic space.

The choice of period music is inspired with classics and lesser-known tracks adding their own soundscape to the story of an animal, a search for space beyond our own planet, and Craigie’s own musings on the playful way he has developed the show.

Cardboard puppetry and curated footage makes its own plot in a way which is both basic and profound. As with Laika, the Russian stray dog sent into space in 1957, there is a sense that we as hunans have often appropriated animals to do our work and take risks for us.

Promotional image from Enos

I liked the idea discussed in the interview that Enos could have been a live show, but felt right for watching on Zoom as a shared experience.

It has all the hallmarks of a strong digital show which uses all its elements to include an audience – we go in close and enjoy what we are seeing and hearing.

With a tagline of “life, the universe … paper rockets” it has a sense of childish crafts while considering quite weighty topics around our existence and dreams.

Set in one room but with a whole workd set within, from the intrepid teddy bear to the gramophone static, Enos has its own little moment of magic and invention.

I highly recommend this quirky 45 minute piece which celebrates the pioneering animals of space while recognising that our own curiosity in the solar system will never really fade.

You can watch Enos on demand during the Voila! Europe festival at The Cockpit – details here. Although free to view, donations are encouraged.