Creeps play presents 1970s look at life with disability

Actor Adam Grant Warren says starring in the 1970s play Creeps gave him a new perspective on his own disability and how much things have — and have not — changed.

Realwheels Theatre is presenting the play at the Cultch from Dec. 1 - 10

The Reelwheels Theatre is mounting a production of Creeps, which tells the story of four men with disabilities who rebel against their sheltered workshop. (Tim Matheson)

Even though the play Creeps may be over 40 years old, it still presents an edgy portrait of life with disability.

Vancouver's Realwheels Theatre is performing the production at the Cultch this week.

The story follows four men with disabilities who work in a sheltered workshop — or segregated labour group — in early 1970s Toronto.

"They essentially get tired of the menial work in the workshop and they kind of retreat to their favourite bathroom and end up barricading themselves in there for the course of the show. Some of them end up leaving and some of them don't," explained actor Adam Grant Warren.

The play was written by David E. Freeman, who had cerebral palsy. He wrote the play on a typewriter that he operated with a stick held between his teeth.

When the play first opened in 1971, it stunned audiences with its frank portrayal of disability.

Warren calls it a "dark comedy."

"There's a lot of levity and a real lightness and charm in the relationship between the four men," he said. "There's a degree of humour around what it is to be 'a creep.'"

Adam Grant Warren, an actor starring in Creeps, says the play opens up a conversation about how people living with disabilities are treated today. (Tim Matheson)

The play stars both able-bodied actors and those with disabilities.

For Warren, who also has cerebral palsy, starring in the play brought a brand new appreciation of how things have changed for those with disabilities — and how they have stayed the same.

"It's as much a testament to how far we've come as is it to how far we have left to go," he said.

Warren said he hopes the play will inspire audiences to be more aware of their own privileges.

"One of the things that I value most is this idea of not just these characters being stuck [physicallly] but what it is for a person to feel stuck," he said.

"I would like [the audience] to come away with a heightened awareness of those moments when they may have found themselves trapped and what they did and didn't do to get out of those spaces."    

The play runs from Dec. 1 to 10, 2016.

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the audio, click on the link labelled Creeps play presents a 1970s look at life with disability