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Creeps takes centre stage at the Cultch

David E. Freeman play considered a historic narrative about living with disabilities
creeps
L-R: Aaron Roderick, Paul Beckett and Adam Grant Warren star in Realwheels Theatre’s production Creeps, which runs Dec. 1 to 10 at the Cultch.

Dark humour, scathing social critique and sardonic wit aren’t the typical calling cards of a December production, but that’s part of the point behind Realwheels Theatre’s upcoming production of Creeps.

The landmark David E. Freeman production around disability and stereotypes runs Dec. 1 to 10 at the Cultch and strays from the typical Christmastime narrative of chimneys and cheer.

“It’s a very dark comedy, but we do the work that resonates for us,” said Creeps producer Rena Cohen. “We’re not doing this for the Scrooges out there. This is an opportunity to have an alternative December experience.”

Freeman lived with cerebral palsy and wrote the play in the early ’70s on a typewriter with a stick held between his teeth. The play’s takeaway is meant to call attention on how society views and treats those with disabilities.

The plots revolves around four disabled men working in a “sheltered workshop” setting under the supervision of a condescending and domineering female supervisor.

Fed up with their treatment, the men barricade themselves in a washroom in protest of the menial work they’re tasked with and how they’re treated.

“The plot then becomes about whether there is an escape or an opportunity for these guys or if they’re going to continue to live their lives in this structure of an institutionalized environment,” Cohen said.

Cast in the role of “Jim” in Creeps, Adam Grant Warren’s relationship with the production dates back 15 years. The Newfoundland native wrote an academic paper in his senior year in university about the play, and at that time, it was almost a novelty to discover cerebral palsy represented in Canadian theatre.

Warren, who lives with cerebral palsy, said that lustre has worn off to an extent.

“As a student I was thrilled to see those people portrayed on stage but 15 years later I have very mixed feelings about doing the show,” he said. “There is part of me that is a little upset that this play is still so relevant. It’s great that we’re stepping out there and doing this, but part of me wonders when is this not going to be relevant anymore.”

Inclusion is at the heart of Realwheel’s mandate and its mission statement is to “deepen audiences’ understanding of the disability experience.”

To that end, the play features three cast members living with disabilities — Paul Beckett (Lautrec, Waiting for Godot), Adam Grant Warren (I Love Mondays, All In), and Aaron Roderick in his debut role  — performing alongside some of the city’s more recognized professional actors, including Brett Harris (Lost Words: Political Edition, Trainspotting), David A. Kaye (Bombitty of Errors, Little Creation), David Bloom (Après Moi, Oleanna) and Genevieve Fleming (Bright Blue Future, The North Plan).

“We don’t see a lot of artists or actors with disabilities on Vancouver stages,” Cohen said. “It’s an opportunity for us to provide that platform. There’s tremendous talent across the disability community.” 

Tickets for Creeps range in price between $18 and $40. For info and show times, see thecultch.com.

@JohnKurucz

jkurucz@vancourier.com