Ingrid the Warrior arrived at our festival fully-formed and ready to kick ass. Shield Maiden sparks conversations about gender equality, feminine empowerment, and the #metoo movement – with a flamethrower. I’ve never seen a theatre crowd leave a show so charged up.
– Mitch Miyagawa, Producer, Cultivate Festival
Even now, over three months after the event, it’s a challenge to fully articulate my emotions upon seeing Gabriola Island resident Melanie Teichroeb’s extraordinary one-woman show, Shield Maiden. When my wife Susan and I and our Gabriolan friend Lynn took our places among the sold out crowd for the performance at the inaugural Cultivate Festival on August 18th, the crackling, anticipatory atmosphere verged on unbearable. There was a tangible, physical sense in the marquee that something truly remarkable would be unfolding before us that afternoon, but the fever of excitement gripping us all was undoubtedly partly fuelled in some, including me, by a collective anxiety as to whether ‘our Mel’ could pull this off. You see, like many present that day I had already known Melanie socially for over a decade, so to witness her first ever foray into such a bold theatrical venture as this – all alone on that stage, in her writing and acting debut no less – wrecked my nerves to the extent that – sitting there waiting, each minute towards curtain-up feeling like an hour – I felt like I might well puke.
From our first meeting I unfailingly found Melanie to be unfeasibly sweet, kind, accommodating and – this is key – with her Texan twang tempered by years living in Ontario and BC, softly spokenwith a soothing timbre. So when, to the ominous introduction of AC/DC’S Hell’s Bellsas a soundtrack a mud-smeared Melanie came blastingonstage as the shield maiden Ingrid Larsdottir, storming around the stage she was soon to effortlessly claim, flashing the sign of the horns and poking her tongue out at the audience, my jaw dropped. And, swept up in personal pride and the spine-tingling, rapturous welcome from her people, tears rolled down my cheeks. Susan clapped uncontrollably, staring at this astounding vision of our old friend in disbelief and awe. It was and always will be an understandable reaction.
Melanie looked INCREDIBLE. She is a tall woman, but wearing a flame-red, partly braided wig and adorned in full-on, weathered leather Viking garb – complete with a huge, Viking Age replica sword and ‘blood’-splashed shield decorated with runic symbols – she somehow looked twice her normal self. It was an awesome entrance, so before a single word of her ‘RED’ Talk on how to be a shield maiden had left her mouth, Melanie had already won the audience, who were to hang on her every word for the next 50 minutes.
As a piece of theatrical writing, Shield Maidenis by turns side-splittingly funny, utterly heartbreaking, thought provoking, poignant, hilariously bawdy and profane – hey, we’re all adults here – but it is also as socio-politically timely as can be imagined. Inspired and incensed by the presumption of the sex of the remains of a Viking warrior discovered buried in Birka, Sweden, as male – later reported by the American Journal of Physical Anthropologyas confirmed by DNA testing to be female – Melanie set out to write and consequently perform her vision of a Viking shield maiden. Her powerful and brilliant work examines not only the role of women in the overwhelmingly male-dominated Norse culture, but also perfectly reflects the overarching philosophies and aims of the burgeoning #MeToo movement today when, over 1,000 years later, in so many ways so little has changed for women in our so-called modern society.
Shield Maidenis accurately marketed as ‘Fierce. Funny. Sexy. Unapologetic.’ It is all of these things in abundance, yet so much more. For reasons enough to comfortably fill a notebook it deserves to become an inspirational cultural phenomenon, and on the evidence of Melanie’s breathtaking debut performance in August 2018, if she can maintain the stamina it demands I can think of no reason for that not to occur. So, please, at your earliest opportunity, go see Shield Maiden at all costs.
– David Morrison, Freelance Writer
This show gave me permission to find and then try out becoming my most powerful self. It awakened the badass woman warrior inside me who had been trapped for the past 20 years of my life. And let me tell you, this warrior is fierce, she is brilliant, she is powerful. And I like her. Thank you, Ingrid. Thank you Melanie Teichroeb. Watch out world, here I come.”
– Chloë Straw, Managing Director, Wave Consulting Ltd.
Mel, you knocked it out of the park. I hope you could feel that coming back at you. You were met blow for blow. Wow! You were brave and fierce and passionate, just like a shield maiden/vag warrior would have been. Thanks so much for gifting us with your vision and courage.
– Sheila Norgate, Visual Artist, Writer, Performer
I loved the way Ingrid embodied so many aspects of the archetypal feminine. So many facets of female psyche were explored against the violence and sexually explicit backdrop of the life of a typical Viking warrior. It brilliantly challenges so much of what it means to be a woman, both back in Viking times, and every bit as relevant today. This is a play for our time. It is both timely and timeless. The range of emotions Melanie’s play stirred in me left me questioning my own relationship and identity as a woman. It raised so many questions about my own story around anger, grief, sexuality, vulnerability, motherhood, heartbreak, and in its essence portrays gritty, messy and undeniable lust for life.
– Tina Boehm, Farmer, Mother
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeannette Martin