Tales of a Grandson

There is much more to history than just learning dates and facts. Actually, that’s just learning dates and facts; history is about putting those dates and facts into some kind of story, albeit sprinkled with a good dose of “perhaps”, “maybe”, and “possibly” when trying to work out what may have happened thousands of years ago. So it’s absolutely apt that stories are at the heart of this enchanting hour during which an engaging Andy Cannon covers the essentials of Scottish history from before the Romans to (relatively speaking) the present, via the prism of an oh-so-special weekend back in 1976 when he stayed alone with his grandparents just outside Edinburgh.

An engaging, exciting way to spend your time.

Cannon manages to embody his boyhood self without sickly affectation, in a show with just the right balance of speech, simple props and physical movement – a washing line of Scottish-themed tea-towels here, an interpretative dance by the president of the Morningside Historical Society there – as he shares his childhood interest in ruined castles and learning about the past. Cannon’s helped in this by the deceptively simple but highly effective musical accompaniment from Wendy Weatherby, her score supportive and never a distraction from Cannon’s tale.

Cannon’s a lively – but never overbearing – performer who encourages sufficient audience participation to keep even its youngest members paying attention without turning the show into a pantomime. Nor does he forget the grown-ups, not least by including few nostalgic nods to Creamola Foam and Sunday-night BBC2 documentary series The World About Us. Interestingly, given the abundance of tartan on stage, he doesn’t ignore the so-called “Scottish cringe”; admitting that, as a kid, he believed everything big and exciting was happening somewhere else in the world. Except for Nessie, of course; Scotland at least had the Loch Ness Monster!

“There’s no rush. History isn’t going anywhere,” Cannon’s grandfather told him, and there’s an obvious intention with this show to encourage us all to discover our own place in the great washing-line – sorry, timeline – of Scotland’s history. Yet, what’s perhaps most interesting, is how Cannon often plays with the malleability of memory. For example, he feels obliged (ironically, perhaps) to explain his childhood viewing of Doctor Who to the younger audience members (who might not remember the show from last year). Significantly, as any Doctor Who geek of a certain age (Hello!) will tell you, the episodes to which he refers – featuring an Earth-bound Doctor battling animated shop-window mannequins – were actually broadcast some six years before the supposed summer weekend he’s been talking about.

History, like any other story, is clearly malleable in our imaginations; that doesn’t mean it can’t be still truthful. And, with Cannon in charge, also an engaging, exciting way to spend your time.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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The Blurb

One of Scotland's finest storytellers, Andy Cannon, accompanied by composer and musical Wendy Weatherby, takes you on a time travelling adventure with his grandparents through Scotland's past to piece together the nation's story.

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