Judith Thompson and 'Such Creatures'

Published: January 25th 2010

Michaela Washburn as Blandy (right), Maria Vacratsis as Sorele (left) in Such Creatures
Pic: Alex Felipe

The two women are also linked by their love of Shakespeare, and Thompson interweaves verses from Hamlet and The Tempest into the monologues. She was intrigued by the idea that the reviled, misunderstood Caliban can stand in for any repressed peoples, and has also directed Shakespeare productions with at-risk schools in the past, noting “They connect to it in an incredible way, and understand what’s going on. When Blandy says ‘I could be bounded by a nutshell and count myself King of Infinite Space were it not for my bad dreams’ – that makes sense to her, in a way it may not make sense to us.”


In fact, well-read theatre-goers will notice that the play’s title comes from a line in The Tempest, but with a twist: the original line reads “O brave new world! That has such people in’t” but Thompson substituted the word ‘creatures’ instead, evoking the idea that those ‘less than human’ – just as Blandy views the homeless, or the SS views the Jewish inmates – is often a misconception or a surface difference.


Currently Thompson is working on a Stratford commission, but says that she is thinking more politically these days and wants to move beyond domestic dramas. Such Creatures is certainly a step in that direction. When I note the quantity of Holocaust dramas on stage these days – East of Berlin at the Tarragon, Such Creatures at Passe Muraille, and an upcoming adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank at the Toronto Centre for the Arts – and ask her why she thinks this is, she muses, “I think it’s probably because the last of the survivors are very elderly now, and the true-life witnesses aren’t going to be around much longer.” But the inspiration to write her play was more serendipitous. “It is because of that letter – this could have been a play about someone in Darfur, and I guess I’ve had a lot of Jewish friends through the years, so maybe I feel a little closer to all that. I can’t say, but I just know that that letter was like a gift, hearing it in class, and I needed to write it.”


Such Creatures runs at Theatre Passe Muraille until Feb. 6. For more information visit http://passemuraille.on.ca.  


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