"Goody", July 2017.
Last year we launched our production of "Goody" at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Set in a 1930’s circus, it is a play about a circus chimpanzee. The slow humanisation and defeat of an intelligent animal. The unavoidable risks of loving such a creature, and the danger of losing sight that the heart of the animal is wild.
We were lucky to work with wonderful actor Jesse Rutherford, who brought subtlety and compassion to the role of trainer Frances Bailey. A man increasingly unable to control a creature three times his own strength. This particular role required love and brutality, the frustration of living with a clown of your own making. A life of solitude, repetition and threat. In this play we did not want to create a monster, we wanted to be able to watch an understandable man perform acts beneath himself.
But many of the real stories do not feature men. The stories are rife with monsters.
I researched this play for over a year. The story of apes living in a human world. Through historical documents, articles and first hand accounts from circus employees. Films about chimps raised as clowns. Films about chimps raised in the laboratory. Films about chimps living as pets, as children, as property. From books "Visions of Caliban" by Jane Goodall, through old crackling footage of the "Detroit Chimp Show".
It is a damning catalogue of humankind at its absolute worse. Damning. A relentless display of betrayal against another living thing will take your breath away.
Even in the softest situation, under a loving eye, you must ask yourself: how did that animal get there? It didn’t come out
of a packet at the supermarket. Where is it’s mother? What was the cost in order for this fuzzy little bugger to be sitting here in human clothes? It’s so cute and funny... until it hits puberty where, famously, we all become grotesque and rebel.
With performing animals there are really only two possible ends to the story. Rescue, or heartbreak.
For the number of apes that end up at sanctuaries, the story is one of bittersweet rehabilitation under the care of people dedicated to their welfare. An opportunity for these animals to learn how to be an ape, for the first time in their lives.
In the play I performed the role of Goody the chimp, and the “Monkey World” Ape Sanctuary is where I went to learn, through observation, how to be an ape myself. The physicality, the slow deliberate gestures, the overwhelming power. The heavy grace.
We went, and then revisited, many times over the course of 18 months.
Lucy meeting Çarli for the first time: first research trip in January 2016.
I cannot praise Monkey World enough: The dedication of the staff to give their animals the chance to live as a happy, galloping, swinging, hooting family. To start again.
You can have a cup of tea and some chips then watch the Gibbons hooping about in their enclosure, or the Orangutans walking slowly about with sheets over their heads like a gathering of wizards. Or the chimps scooting about having fun together. And you can read how each and every one of them got there, and know in your heart that not one of them will ever go home.
We love this place, and it was our absolute hope to be able to give something back to Monkey World following the show.
So I give my deepest thanks to everyone who was able to support us. From the people who donated to the Crowdfund, to those who bought a ticket, to those who shared the word on social media. To those who told one friend, and that one friend came. All the money you helped us raise let us make this show. And with that money, we knew we wanted to give something back. So we have adopted some of those wonderful Monkey World chimps who inspired the character of Goody the chimp and want to introduce them, and their stories, to you now.
So thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts. And please meet, and love, Çarli, Freddy, Trudy, Lulu, Busta and Athena. All sharing a past that led to our Goody, and now all part of our extended BoonDog family. xx
You can find out more, and meet some of their amazing friends, at http://www.monkeyworld.org/
Or you can go down to Dorset and visit them: we'd highly recommended it.
"Goody", July 2017.