• Amy Toledano

Chronic presented by Catherine Bensley

What is it?

A one-woman musical by Catherine Bensley about living with a chronic illness, and sexism. It is on at The Old Red Lion.

What is it about?

It tells the story of a girls struggle to be heard as she recounts her health problems. Her doctor doesn’t listen to her, just like in the Freudian days of clinical misogyny. It deals with issues of anxiety, mental health and sexism in healthcare.

How did it make me feel?

First off, I was captivated by the power of Catherine’s voice, and her ability to own the space. (and a great space the theatre at the Old Red Lion is by the way!) The show started late, due to another show’s performance over-running. Once it started, I forgot all that though because it was so very captivating.

This is an interesting story, and I loved that it felt like a journey which ended in some consolation, but only after a battle to be believed. It is beautifully executed by Catherine and the sound by Stuart Foulston adds fantastically to it. It feels like a refreshing, almost punky version of what you might be used to in a musical.

The issue of belief in healthcare is a complicated one, and it’s difficult. This is especially because the NHS is underfunded, doctors are busy, and doctors are humans too. What this show tackled is systemic bias against women, views that stem from age-old notions of women being hysterical and weak.

It is very important to mention the song-writing! Really wonderful songs that feel empowering and fun, an escape from the, at times, miserable subject matter.

What feels lacking however are things such as statistics about women in healthcare, or something similar, to better contextualise this deeply personal battle. Overall though, it is an interesting subject matter.

All in all, Catherine is definitely one to watch. Her ability to own a stage with her singing and performing is quite something.

Anything else?

When is Catherine releasing a CD? We need it. An energetic and original take on a complex issue.

Chronic is playing at The Old Red Lion until the 5th February 2020.

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