For Hamilton Fringe Festival 2021, Same Boat Theatre Company presents Creature, an audio experience with optional visual element. Written and performed by Stephen Near, this meditative and eerie piece takes the listener through his obsession with Sasquatch (aka Bigfoot).
Like Near, I had an 80s childhood, so there are many references that resonant with me, though the specifics may not always line-up exactly. Where he was obsessed with In Search Of, I found myself wide-eye, cower-watching Unsolved Mysteries. And yes, it is the music and the re-enactments that really got me too.
Near takes us through a number of personal experiences with peculiar sights and sounds in the woods and references documented incidents that relate to mysterious encounters. There is an interactive element here as he invites us explore specific locations in Google Maps or look up the facts of an incident he describes.
This goes deeper than Bigfoot though. He delves into an uneasy relationship with his father, culminating in a formatively unsettling incident. Contemplating these intimate memories, he forges a connection between our fascination with unexplained phenomena and the more mundane yet equally furtive and enigmatic circumstances of our own lives.
Luke Brown’s understated sound design provides a mood for Near’s evocative text and measured, reassuring voice. It creates a definite vibe and can put you in an intensely contemplative headspace.
I watched/listened to this alone in my apartment, late at night, with earphones on. I frequently stopped, tearing my earphones off, certain I had heard shifting movement somewhere nearby. I was compelled to close the drapes—fully, not even a sliver to expose the night…or me.
If you don’t go out into the woods to listen to this, as Near suggests, I recommend listening to Creature in a crafted environment: lights low, late at night, alone. Allow yourself to be ten years old again, unable to look away from whatever uncanny thing is calling to you. You remember. And if you don’t, Near will help you.