Prepare yourself for an epic cosmic adventure with INTERSTELLAR ELDER Badass Grandma in Space presented by Ottawa Fringe favourite, SNAFU Dance Theatre. Blasting off into a (maybe not-so-distant) future where Earth is no longer habitable by humans and has, in fact, become overrun with swiss chard, our protagonist Kitt Peterson wakes up on board a strange spacecraft only to discover that she has been selected as the new custodian of some cryogenically frozen cargo- the last of humankind. A masterclass in non-verbal and physical storytelling, co-creator and performer Ingrid Hansen is a shooting star on stage.

interstellar_elder__6__snafuartist_ingrid_hansen_photo_by_laura_dittmann
Pictured: Ingrid Hansen; Photography by Laura Dittmann

If the name Kitt Peterson sounds familiar to you, it’s because she’s also the main character in some of SNAFU’s past work including The Little Orange Man and Kitt & Jane. Only this time Kitt finds herself at the behest of the voice of the robotically polite Mandy (whose personality and physical form have been distilled into a small electronic device uploaded to the ship’s Cloud system) who not only guides her through her new duties as the ship’s newest cargo custodian, but also rates her performance. As time passes, Kitt becomes bored and lonely and so she takes matters into her own hands by reverting the ship back to its Beta-programming after “overthrowing” Mandy. Little does she know that her actions just might jeopardize the entire mission and Earth’s ultimate survival.

Hansen has to be one of the most unique performers to tour the Canadian Fringe circuit. The style of movement that has become nearly synonymous with SNAFU is a style that takes the mundane and transforms it into something absurd and interesting to watch on stage. Take, for example, the moment in which the passage of time is demonstrated using a physical montage of Kitt undertaking the same 5 or 6 actions in a repeated sequence- waking up, getting dressed, disposing of one’s urine, ingesting the daily meal-replacement vitamin and nutrient spray, and so on until Kitt falls back into bed exhausted. This sequence is then condensed even further, performed even faster, and, soon enough, becomes an engaging piece of choreography in its own right.

Interstellar Elder also features some incredible puppetry, namely, the moment where a Kleenex becomes infected by parasitic spores and then transforms into a giant tissue alien. A thrilling battle ensues between the alien and Kitt, who must defend the ship’s precious cargo from contamination. The puppet is, of course, manipulated by Hansen on stage though she does an excellent job of making it feel like the alien has a mind and body of its own. If you’ve seen The Little Orange Man then you might recognize this physicality as being similar to how Hansen creates Kitt’s emotional dance with her grandfather’s coat. Only this time Kitt is engaged in a dance-fight-to-the-death (that includes a hilarious bit of tango) where she eventually triumphs over the tissue-alien by forcing it into the ship’s garburator, much to the delight of the audience.

While it might seem as though the play starts on a bit of a cynical note- the world has become unlivable due to mass human pollution, the swiss chard catastrophe, and Prime Minister Justin Bieber; the overall message is one of hope. When the discovery is made that the parasitic spores are making their way to infect the Earth, Kitt doesn’t even hesitate in her decision to save it. Even though we’ve been informed that the Earth has only made minimal progress towards becoming hospitable again, Kitt knows we have to protect that small amount of life that’s begun to regenerate. However, we can only save the world if we work together. A message that is made physically and abundantly clear to the audience in a way which I will not spoil for you here.

SNAFU has consistently brought exciting performances to the Ottawa Fringe and have certainly earned their spot as a Fringe Favourite. There’s always lots of interesting details to pick out of their productions whether it’s the movement they create on stage, or the way they use everyday items as unique props, or how self-referential they are with their works (did you catch the reference to Kitt’s grandfather’s strawberry farm?); this is what makes this company so memorable. Interstellar Elder is a play that’s fun and silly, yet timely in the themes and situations it presents to us on stage. A piece that’s out of this world, in more ways than one, don’t miss your chance to see SNAFU Dance.

INTERSTELLAR ELDER Badass Grandma in Space

by Ingrid Hansen, Kathleen Greenfield, Britt Small, and Emma Zabloski

Venue 1: Arts Court Theatre

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