• Amy Toledano

In conversation with Catherine Bensley, Chronic, Maiden Speech 2019.

Image courtesy of Lexi Clare

What show did you perform as a part of Maiden Speech Festival 2019? A one-women musical called Chronic. What was it all about? Chronic, about my journey navigating an unknown disease. It also explores the unconscious medical bias that I experienced along the way. It's a hot topic at the moment because people are becoming more aware of how women are not being believed or told that their diseases are functional, and being sent straight off to psychiatrists or put on anti-depressants. I show my struggle through dark humour and relatable songs. Who is in your company? So far just me (Catherine Bensley) on stage but I have a wonderful director called Laura Gretton, an amazing Musical Director called Stuart Foulston and not forgetting my sound-designer Anouk Scheepens, behind the scenes. How long have you been working on this idea? It took a few months to put together. I have always wanted to write a musical but when I got this disease that no doctor would believe, I thought - ah this is the drive I have to write. I wrote the last song very early on. Then used all my personal diaries, accounts and doctor's letters to build a show around that song.  Was your show a work in progress? Yes in the sense that it could expand but it was a fully formed show. My director and I will always be thinking about new ideas, as it moves forward.  How was your experience of Maiden Speech? It was such a wonderful experience. A great platform for me, as a very new writer, to showcase Chronic. The process was easy and very well organised. I didn't feel scared for things to go wrong either as any feedback is good. Will this show be performed in the future? Yes, I have had some very positive feedback and would absolutely love to take this to other venues. The Fringe is definite goal for me but I will be performing it over the year anywhere I can before that. What is next for your company/artists?

I think Chronic will be our main project for a while but I am looking to write stand-alone songs to perform and expand the company to include female voices. The theme will be the same - to get the message out there that women are not alone and that individually speaking up and standing your ground is imperative if we want to be heard and believed.

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