Interstellar Elder & The Merkin Sisters

Montreal Fringe 2017 Reviews
Note: Interstellar Elder currently showing in the Toronto Fringe 2017


Interstellar Elder

Performer: Ingrid Hansen

Director: Katherine Greenfield

Choreographer: Britt Small

Montreal: La Chapelle Theatre, St Ambroise Fringe Festival 2017

Toronto: Theatre Centre, Toronto Fringe 2017, July 7-15 2017


Reviewed by Ted Fox


Interstellar Elder is an emotional and very funny multi-disciplinary physical theatre production.


An elderly female astronaut is cryogenically frozen among her sleeping human cargo-- which is us. They are orbiting earth until it heals from a climate related disaster that has made the earth uninhabitable.


She is woken early in this journey by the HAL voice of a robot monitor advising that she has been designated as custodian. She is assigned duties through this voice.


What it does not tell her until much later is that there were other custodians before her. After she has served her time she will be uploaded into a cloud and cremated. And we find out that when awakened, some of us could suffer permanent brain damage and loss of eyeballs.


The set looks like a child's bedroom—small, with bright summery colours like red, yellow and green. There is even a toy robot on a table. And a box of kleenex which will play a role. And she is wearing a brightly coloured spacesuit.


This cheerfully coloured set counterpoints the monotony and boring tasks she has to do throughout this century-long journey. One of her tasks is to take a brush and remove from our bodies the dust accumulated over the centuries. As she begins with those nearest to her, we the awake audience give sighs of relief, until we find the brush handle can be extended further and further and further.


There is a sequence in which her tasks are speeded up and repeated over and over, effectively conveying the unrelenting routine over the centuries.


Though Hansen is not at all elderly, her performance quickly allows us to suspend our disbelief. Maybe the longevity is due to unexpected freezing properties?


Various shades of emotions move across her face constantly, fully conveying her loneliness and desperation for human contact. At one point, in a poignant and sad moment, she takes one sleeper's hand and rests it on her face.


Hansen's skilled performance makes Interstellar Elder a very funny and emotional experience.




The Merkin Sisters

Creators and Performers: Ingrid Hansen & Stephanie Morin-Robert

St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival

La Chapelle Theatre

June 12-June 18 2017

Ingrid Hansen also performs in The Merkin Sisters, which is a very funny multi-disciplinary show with dance segments created and performed by Ingrid Hansen and Stephanie Morin-Robert. Underlying the comedy, it raises issues centered around the empowerment of women and ownership of their bodies.


Ashamed of their body parts and bodily functions. Obsessive about their image in relationship to others. At one point there is a song with the repeated lyrics: "My hair is mine. It is not a wig."


Also addressed is competition and control in relationships between women. One reclines regally, her body all furry. She masturbates through the hair of her vagina, looking suspiciously like a mouth. The other, reclining unseen behind her, springs up, asking: “Why am I always the vagina?”


Surreal images like this abound. In some their bodies are completely furry. One vomits baby hairballs, one of which gobbles up another. One clutches the mother’s fur, making squeaking momma sounds. The sisters go into the audience examining our heads and actually pull out hairballs.


A sister puts on a shirt. Puts her legs where arms should be. Her water breaks. Gives birth to a glove.


There are several dance pieces. Heads attached to a puppet doll while the legs do a step-dance routine. Another has them leaping and pushing a dust towel in a circle. One tells us: “This is an example of contemporary dance.”


Morin-Robert's facial expressions are grim and pouty. Those of Hansen are more soft and fragile.


Thoroughly enjoyable hysterically funny physical theatre with a touch of dance.