(Creeps: Carrefour internationale de théatre à Québec)
When we first meet, he is almost completely naked.
I have been blessed with the rare opportunity of being backstage an hour before a theatrical performance in Québec City for an indie show called ‘Creeps’. My son is designing the lighting and video integration for the show. He has warned me -with a slightly concerned, worried look – that the show is meant to incite feelings of horror, disgust and discomfort. He acknowledges my look of interested unconcern with just the slightest skepticism. He cannot know that I – the biggest of Stephen King fans – have just felt my heart give an excited skip at his words. I like all things weird and wonderful; I always have. We are in an old, ramshackle four-storey warehouse that, I can see, also serves as an artists’ studio. When we get to the area where the performance will take place, I see no stage; just a huge room with small, raised platforms placed here and there throughout. As best I can, I find a quiet corner and do my best to keep out of everyone’s way and – my age betrays me at this point – wonder where the audience will sit during the performance.
It is fascinating for me to watch as the crew prepares for the show. There are so many people – too many to keep track of – and I am struck by how much the general public does not know about the work that goes on behind the scenes of a theatre production. I feel as though I SHOULD have known: I am always one of the few people sprinkled throughout a movie theatre when the movie has ended, watching the credits right to the end. The hundreds of names and the endless variety of jobs required to build a movie never fails to amaze me: I always feel a certain duty to honour their work by staying until the end.
As I stand, rivetted, watching the hurried, slightly chaotic preparations, I spot him entering the room. His nudity has little to do with why I have noticed him: it is just that he is one of those people who could never pass unnoticed: his energy takes over the room. He is wearing a black string bikini that only just covers his privates. Tall and extremely slender, his makeup is gothic; hair shaved except for these spiky bits artistically adorning his head. My son – busy setting up – briefly introduces me. The second I shake hands with him, I like him immediately. I expect that most people my age would have a difficult time seeing past his ‘look’ but I have always been blessed with an ability to see right into the heart of what I privately refer to as The Gentle Folk. He exudes an energy that makes me want to hug him; to find a couch where we could sit and have a long, warm, intimate chat. Wonderfully, flamboyantly gay, the mother in me falls madly in love with him at first sight. He touches my heart: I find him exquisitely beautiful.
The performance itself does not disappoint: comprised of a series of vignettes and a variety of artistic mediums including video, lighting, opera, hard rock, poignant, moving monologues and even a man suspended from the ceiling with hooks in the skin of his shoulder blades, I am delighted to discover that the entire performance is completely interactive. We, the audience, follow the performers throughout the room, and those near the front are kind enough to sit so the people in the back can see. Yes, some parts are macabre and some parts meant to make you squeamish, but mostly, I find the message poignant, sad and extremely moving. A true introvert, I am touched beyond words: it will be many days before I am able to say anything at all about what I have seen.
My favourite part of the evening remains the young man I had noticed earlier. When it is his turn to join the performance, he enters the room wearing a big, flamboyant wig, red shiny boots with eight-inch heels, a black bustier and a red shiny vest. The music throbs throughout the entire building: he dances with frank, primal sexuality as he strips off – no, rips off – each piece of clothing until he is wearing nothing but the string bikini that I met him in. He confidently; masterfully directs the crowd to move with him; around him. I have always, always loved to dance and I always dance like no one is watching. That part of me recognizes a kindred spirit and I allow him to draw me into his performance: I am utterly and completely mesmerized and in awe of his primal, carnal, raw passion. This is much more than a ‘dance’: it is the baring of a soul; gradually stripping away layers of pain until there is nothing between him and the audience but pure, raw anguish. When his dance abruptly ends in a dramatic collapse, I take in a huge breath I didn’t realize I had been holding. It is one of the most beautiful, moving sights I have ever seen.
I am so shy and so tongue-tied about expressing my feelings regarding such things that I almost always leave a performance without saying a word to anyone. This time, however, I am compelled to go and speak with him. He is elegantly dressed from head to toe in black now. I try to tell him how moved I was but as usual, I am only able to stutter a few words before giving up and saying something inadequate like “I ADORED your performance; it moved me deeply.” I would love to talk with him for hours but I know this is his moment so I excuse myself and let him wander into the crowd.
That’s okay – he left behind a little piece of himself in my heart. I promise to keep it safe…
Source of photo (photo credit: Stéphane Bourgeois)
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com