Olga Ravd’s The Employees
brought to stage
Cédric Delorme-Bouchard’s experimental adaptation is enthralling and a tour de force
By Jacqueline van de Geer
April 9, 2022
Can I trust my colleague?
What is the meaning of these nightmares haunting me?
Am I (still) human?
When mysterious objects are taken aboard the Six-Thousand Ship of a powerful space exploration corporation, the fragile cohabitation of its human and resembling employees shatters and turns to blood.
Cédric Delorme-Bouchard was only reading the third page of The Employees when he was already convinced that he had found the material for his new project. The Employees is a sci-fi novel written in 2020 by Olga Ravd, a Danish poet and novelist.
Cédric Delorme-Bouchard’s experimental stage-adaptation is enthralling and a tour de force since Olga Ravd’s sci-fi novel does not consist of a clean narrative. Rather, it is excerpts of interviews with both human and humanoid residents and employees of the Six-Thousand Ship in the 22nd century.
Cédric Delorme-Bouchard was only reading the third page of The Employees when he was already convinced that he had found the material for his new project.
As we slowly learn about these humans and humanoids, as well as about the objects they have collected at New Discovery, we get to know the story of the ship and we learn about what has occurred: the crew of the Six-Thousand Ship consists of those who were born – the humans – and those who were made – the humanoids and machines. Those who will die and those who will not.
When the ship takes on a number of strange objects from the planet New Discovery, the crew is perplexed to find itself becoming deeply attached to them and human and humanoid employees alike start aching for the same things: warmth and intimacy. The humans remember their loved ones who have passed and miss shopping and child-rearing. They dream about strawberries. They crave our shared, faraway Earth, which now only persists in memory.
Gradually, the crew members come to see their work in a new light, and each employee is compelled to ask themselves whether they can carry on as before – and what it means to be truly living.
At the heart of The Employees is the question of what it means to be human. The objects are the catalyst for an existential crisis causing human and humanoid workers alike to reflect on their life and to wonder what it’s all about. The two groups, forced to work together every day, reflect as well on their relationship with their co-workers. Some humans find the humanoids strange but also useful. Some become attracted to their colleagues while others are repulsed by them. Conversely, the humanoids are fascinated by the humans, wanting to know more about their strong nostalgia and wondering what drives them.
‘At the heart of The Employees is the question of what it means to be human. The objects are the catalyst for an existential crisis causing human and humanoid workers alike to reflect on their life and to wonder what it’s all about.’
The interpreters, Mélanie Chouinard, Jennyfer Desbien, Myriam Fois, Jonathan Malenfant and Alexis Trépanier move graciously on the stage, making a mysterious presence. Large red lasers and a mesmerizing soundtrack accompany them, making the evening a poetic experience.
The Employees becomes a cinematographic frame where the music, voices and texts are spun word by word and note by note to create a bewitching performance. The movement guided by Danielle Lecourtois and the sound design by Simon Gauthier are hypnotizing. The voice recordings, representing the human and humanoid employees, share the hopes and dreams of both groups with us, and we start to wonder on which side we are. Camilla Jupa‘s delicate sci-fi costumes give the finishing touch.
The Employees is a must-see work, having the only English version programmed on Monday, April 11.
A co-production between Chambre Noire and La Chapelle scènes contemporaines.
At La Chapelle scènes contemporaines from April 7 to 12.
Images: Simon Gauthier
Other articles by Jacqueline van de Geer
Originally from the Netherlands, Jacqueline van de Geer crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 2005 to live and work in Montréal. She has a bachelor’s degree in visual arts and performance arts.