‘Creeps’: The Canadian play that shook the ground and opened minds

Thursday 01st, December 2016 / 12:16
By Maddy Cristall
Creeps fearlessly embraces dark humour within the search for humanity within a disability. Photo: Tim Matheson

Creeps fearlessly embraces dark humour within the search for humanity within a disability.
Photo: Tim Matheson

VANCOUVER — From December 1-10, the Vancouver-based Realwheels Theatre presents their production of Creeps. Creeps is a controversial, ground-breaking, and subversive play that transformed Canadian theatre by offering a unique perspective on living with a disability. The play was written in 1971 by David E. Freeman who, as someone who lived with cerebral palsy, wrote the entire play by typewriter, which he worked with a stick held between his teeth.

Creeps is a story of four men with disabilities who spend their days brooding in a gruelling and insulated workshop. After growing tired of the way they are treated, they rebel by holing themselves up in the warehouse washroom. In there, they indulge in gossip and smoking, while liberating themselves by rejecting the institutionalized conduct they’ve been subjected to. In the original production in the 1970s, Freeman personally coached the actors so that they would not be seen to simply impersonate the disabilities associated with the condition. The play also has the educational purpose to inform the audience about the causes and symptoms of cerebral palsy. The unapologetic honesty and audaciousness of the script is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and the sarcastic dialogue encapsulates a blend of cruelty and transparency into this understudied world.

Photo: Tim Matheson

Photo: Tim Matheson

Directed by the innovative Brian Cochrane (52 Pick-up, Wide Awake Hearts, Speech & Debate), Creeps’ casting features actors both with and without disabilities and includes, from the disabled community, Paul Beckett, Adam Grant Warren, and Aaron Roderick, alongside David A. Kaye and Genevieve Fleming.

Creeps includes some outdated language that may “Raise some interesting questions and cause controversy,” says producer Rena Cohen, but it gave a voice to a misunderstood community in a particularly complex time in a world that remains prejudiced. Cohen describes that the characters feel that they’re “the toilet of humanity” and that “the play is an argument between those that are protesting the structures between those disabilities.” She explains: “it’s a dark comedy that deals with difficult subjects, it is also an opportunity to recognize how far we have come over the past 45 years.”

A powerful and fresh display of the fight against oppression through a brutally honest lens, Creeps brings some sense of the difficulty of living with a disability to light in the powerful form of live theatre.

Creeps runs from December 1-10 at the Historic Theatre. Tickets are two for one on December 3, which is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

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