views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Creeps
Etcetera Theatre
16th August 2016

★★★★☆

Catherine Waller

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

Have you ever played one of those locked room games? You know, the ones where you enter a room which bears no resemblance to the reality outside its doors and you have to hunt around to find and unravel lots of little clues in order to solve the mystery and be able to leave? Well, The Creeps is a bit like one of those games. It's a piece of theatre, don't get me wrong, but an immensely interactive one in which you're encouraged to speak to the different characters, even move around if you like. It's a truly mesmerising one-woman extravaganza, which is horribly unsettling, but in a very satisfying way.

Catherine Waller is a true chameleon, slipping between characters as the lights change. She doesn't rely on props or costumes to separate out her performances and she doesn't leave the stage, so logically we know it's the same actress in front of us at all times. And yet, this doesn't seem plausible. Waller is a wonderfully physical actress, contorting her whole body and introducing lots of different mannerisms and voices that genuinely transform her into different people. There's no trickery, this is just old-fashioned high quality acting at its best. Without spoiling the story, we find ourselves in a very macabre house of horrors and are introduced to some of its tragic inhabitants, who all have their own tale to share as to how they came to be there. Some are more willing to talk than others and some require a bit of coaxing, however all are happy to enter into a dialogue with us.

Given the style of the piece and the inherent risk of the audience causing havoc and leading Waller to spend too long allowing us to get inside the head of just one of her many characters, the use of forced scene changes with blackouts helps keep the action moving. There's a huge amount of improvisation and each performance will be different, however there is a clear structure to The Creeps and thought has gone into allowing us to appreciate it. Whilst we can ask Waller anything we like, we have no control over when each character runs out of time. Interactive performances aren't for everyone, but the more we allow ourselves to become a part of Waller's devised opus, the more we find out about each character and their true significance to the story, the more we get out of it. We allow ourselves to be drawn in. There are no wrong answers, however be prepared to be haunted by the questions you didn't ask and wish you had.

Although this is a show that would work well with a room full of strangers, with smaller numbers it becomes a very intimate, memorable affair. There are lots of pieces of theatre in the Camden Fringe, there always are, but this one of those shows that will remain with you long after the festival ends. Booking an afternoon weekday slot means many people just won't have the opportunity to see The Creeps this August, so I hope it comes back to the capital for the London Horror Festival.

The show is currently touring, and I do hope Waller finds the opportunity to stage it in some less traditional venues as it would work really well in quasi-abandoned, pop-up spaces with just some temporary lighting rigged up. The Creeps is one of those theatrical experiences of which I feel privileged to have been a part. The content is gruesome and upsetting, so you do have to be a horror fan to enjoy this, however if you are, I would wholeheartedly recommend you allow yourself to get creeped out.

The Creeps opened on 15th August and runs until 19th August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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