The Fantastic Life of Minnie Rubinski

The creative duo that makes up Edinburgh based Vision Mechanics, Symon Macintyre and Kim Bergsagel, have married their not inconsiderable imaginative powers with yet another style in their latest work, The Fantastic Life of Minnie Rubinski.

 This unique piece of theatre was created during the pandemic and inspired by Creative Director Kim’s experience of her mother’s dementia. The result is an immersive installation piece involving film, music and, of course, puppetry that is derived from fragments of phone calls and family anecdotes. 

Entering through the black curtained entrance to Fruitmarket’s Warehouse space, audience members, who are allowed entry in small groups at a time, are faced with the creation of a giant brain in the centre like a soft igloo (surely one of the most creative use of old duvets imaginable!) In no particular order, key points in Minnie’s life are acted out on film on old style TV size screens using marionettes carved and operated by Kim Bergsagel with  fellow puppeteers Jessica Innes and Helen Belbin. The puppets, in intricate costumes by Ingrid Scholes, work their magic in miniature detailed sets made by Alice Knight to show what is playing out in Minnie’s mind. Headphones allow the music by Ewan Macintyre to add atmosphere to these miniature dramas.

The random nature of the experience is perfect to demonstrate the nonlinear thought process that we all know of but that dementia sufferers may well face more than most. Memory, after all, is an indiscriminate trickster. What is real and what is imagined can be questioned readily, particularly as we age. In no particular order, Minnie is shown as a young bride; a young mother; a divorcee; a pianist; an author; an art collector; a gallery owner; a romantic; a journalist; an adventurer and of course ultimately as a dependent old woman. But only some of these memories are true and how do we know which? Maybe at that stage of life, it is a comfort to summon the key positive points of a life lived and embellish them with love when reality is confined and shrunken. Better to imagine a heroine than a has-been afore ye go!

This thoughtful yet entertaining work is an homage to Kim’s mother Sondra Robin who was born in 1934 and whose voice is poignantly re-created by an old New York friend, Lois Markle where it can be heard in the central ‘brain igloo’.

Shown as part of this year’s Manipulate Festival.

Age recommend 14+

Entrance at 30 minute intervals with running time of 45 minutes

Irene Brown

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