Victoria Fringe Festival 2016 Preview – Little Orange Man
August 23, 2016
Ingrid Hansen and SNAFU Theatre blast back to the west coast with the work that launched nearly one hundred Fringe shows, Little Orange Man. A delight with critics and a demon with audience funny bones, the piece has slowly formed its own legend on the circuit. But, if for some reason you have not seen the show, Showbill.ca‘s Matt McLaren take a look inside the creative mind of Ingrid Hansen.
Matt McLaren: You’ve said you work from a series of images rather than a script when creating a new work. With 98 performances under its belt, Little Orange Man is no infant, but I think it would be helpful to first-time audience members – I’m sure they exist – to discuss what images gave this piece life all those years ago?
Ingrid Hansen: When I was in grade six I remember I spent one lunch hour playing with kindergarten kids instead of other 6th graders. We carved paths through the thick carpet of fallen leaves that covered the grass. It felt like I had an army of small people who I could communicate with, without using words.
In Little Orange Man, eleven year old Kitt has no friends her own age, but befriends the Kindergarten kids at the daycare on the other side of the chain link fence, and every lunch hour they tell stories through the fence.
MM: I’m going to refer to Phillip Pierce’s CVV Magazine review of the first show. In his words, “Ingrid Hansen commands the bizarre. She champions it.” I know this is not the last time you’ve heard something similar when discussing your work. Is this a fair? Or have we been pigeonholing your style?
IH: Sure why not? It was funny to me at first when people described Little Orange Man as bizarre, because when we first created Little Orange Man it was the most logical, linear, narrative piece SNAFU had created thus far in it’s history.
Our previous shows Riyoku, BLiNK and Pretty Little Instincts were far more unconventional and risky–the costume was nudity and white paint, we had a soundtrack of intense Arvo Part music, we performed at a haunted Edwardian manor house next door to a mountain of crushed cars. Little Orange Man takes place in a theatre with walls, and has a protagonist, and a script.
MM: By this point, Little Orange Man has made it through 21 different theatres across Canada. Its official 100th performance will take place at the World Fringe Congress in Montreal this fall. Forgive me for being blunt, but after this long successful road, at what point do you drive a stake through its heart and let it rest?
IH: When I’m dead. Maybe if I stopped enjoying it, but I doubt it. It’s a lot of fun to perform. Plus lots of my props and puppets are vegetables, so snacking is built into the performance. Snacks are very important to me. I’m a food-fueled beast.
MM: During its life on the road, I wonder if anything happened that was surreal enough to get incorporated into the show? You’ve mentioned that, as it’s birthed from images, that it’s pretty malleable.
IH: One audience member in Ottawa spontaneously created something that we loved so much we ended up working it into the show. In the middle of one of the dream sequences where Kitt does battle with the evil Slug Man, this audience member in the front row was so committed to the story that he threw his hands in the air and shouted, “Salt shower!” That inspired us.
MM: I want to investigate more into your collaboration with your director and SNAFU co-creator Kathleen Greenfield. I know that she’s been an integral part of this show’s development from the start. It was her living room that was used for rehearsals, yes?
IH: I love working with Kathleen. We have a great trust and a mutual fascination with unconventional storytelling, folklore, and Terry Gilliam movies. She’s also a lot of fun, and a total badass.
MM: Let’s also give a shout-out to all the other creative goblins that helped make this show a reality.
IH: Oh man. All the Fringe Festival volunteers, the hardcore Fringe Festival Staff, the technicians, photographers Al Smith and Jam Hamidi, the Greyhound Bus, the props team at the Belfry, Jim Leard for having initial discussions with me years ago, Tim Gosley for sharing his puppetry knowledge, all our touring Fringe Artist Family, my clown teacher Sue Morrison, Jorgen Hansen for building the magic coat rack, the Salvation Army Thrift Stores for being the source of most of our props and costumes, Intrepid Theatre, Lucia and Endre Dolhai for letting me live in their house, all our artist friends who watched the show and gave feedback, and all the farmers who grew all the celery that Kitt smashes to pieces.
MM: So after all this time, why has the show had the effect on audiences that it has?
IH: I don’t know, I’ve never seen the show! Perhaps because under all the manic playfulness and fart jokes, it’s a story about a young person who is desperately lonely and misunderstood, and we are all avoiding facing up to how truly lonely we feel in the moments between distractions.
MM: Why should audiences come and see Little Orange Man?
IH: Because if you don’t see it, your heart might shrivel up into a raisin and get eaten by a raven. It’s like taking Espresso shots with your inner child. And chances are, unless you’re a gargoyle, your inner child is probably pretty rad.