Creeps by David E. Freeman
Reflections by GVPTA blogger Heather Evens
When Creeps was first staged in 1971, it was considered groundbreaking in that it provided an honest and unique Canadian glimpse into the lived experience of people with disabilities. This 2016 production staged by Realwheels is also groundbreaking – it’s a shining example of the work being done towards diversity in theatre and inclusivity in our community.
As you’re surely aware, there’s currently a spotlight on the need for ‘diversity’ in theatre – specifically, that theatre needs to better reflect the diversity of our communities. I would argue that often people think of diversity as primarily meaning racial or cultural diversity. But the concept of diversity has itself become more diverse over the past years – it includes pretty much any demographic category (i.e., race, ethnicity, culture, language, gender, sexuality, ability, intelligence, physicality, age, etc.). The hope is that one day theatre will ‘do diversity’ so well that the concept won’t even need to be mentioned anymore. With that as a goal, there’s a lot of awesome work being done within our local theatres to give voices to historically under-represented communities.
Realwheels is one of the many, many companies involved in this work. Although they don’t use the word ‘diversity’ in describing it, their mission is to produce performances “that deepen audiences’ understanding of the disability experience.” That is, they work to give a voice to the historically under-represented disability community. They aim to “tell stories in which disability itself is not the focus of conflict, but rather forms the landscape upon which universal issues are debated onstage.” Creeps by Canadian David E. Freeman is exactly that type of story – it’s about a group of coworkers with disabilities who talk candidly amongst themselves about how their society views and treats them. The play takes place in a grungy workplace bathroom, which is, sadly, the only place these guys feel like they can be themselves. It’s essentially a mirror held up to Canadian attitudes towards and experience of the disability community, circa 1971. And as most mirrors are, it’s brutally honest and humbling. Even for a country such as ours that has always been (arguably) socially progressive. It makes us question how far we’ve come since then and how far we’ve still got to go towards inclusivity and equality.
In addition to the unique perspective of this story, what makes this Vancouver production even more impactful is that for the first time in the play’s 45-year history, it’s being performed by an integrated cast: of the seven professional actors, three are actors who live with disability. In my humble opinion, this is the epitome of theatre succeeding at ‘doing diversity’ – the production is powerfully reflective of our diverse community, and it sets an even playing field for actors of differing dis/abilities. There’s no token actor with a disability; there are just incredible actors in this incredible Canadian play, some of whom live with disability. It doesn’t get more Canadian than this.
Photo credit: Tim Matheson
Well done, Realwheels. And congratulations to the entire cast and crew! I hope your run is successful and the production gets held over!
Creeps is playing at The Historic Theatre at The Cultch until December 10, 2016.
You’ll get information and tickets through realwheels.ca or thecultch.com
- 2-for-1 SPECIAL TICKET PRICE for International Day of Persons with Disability on Saturday, December 3 at 8pm (plus post-show reception)
- ASL and Audio Description on Sunday, December 4 at 2pm
- Post-show talk-backs on December 4 & 6