Holly, suffering from Endometriosis, often finds herself in pain that prevents her from being able to go to work, and is on medication that aggravates her mental health issues and interferes with mood regulation. She also needs surgery from time to time. Cel suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and can't seem to hold her energy for prolonged periods, and needs to keep stopping to rest. She feels like she should move in with her family for a while because she's really struggling to look after herself. Both women feel deep frustration at the fact that their illnesses routinely disrupt their daily lives, but are apparently not considered severe enough to warrant much empathy and understanding from the people around them.
This show is a window into what Cel and Holly's lives look like at home when they're turning down invitations to go out and socialize like "normal 20 something-year-olds". They're doing all they can just to keep themselves together, and to help keep each other as cheerful as they can in the circumstances. Their story also features Liam, who is Holly's housemate and Cel's boyfriend, who represents the most physically well person among them. He does his best to empathize and be there for them, but there are some things that just can't be fully understood except by the people experiencing them first hand.
Crash Pad is a lovely, gentle theatrical presentation. The pace is easy and the tone is mellow, which is fitting for the sort of lives Cel and Holly live in their respective situations. Sophie Berry-Porter and Rhian Wilson deliver persuasive and charismatic performances as Holly and Cel, and Max Meaden supports them well as Liam. Crash Pad has strong feminist undertones throughout the show and it is somewhat amusing to see Liam take on a supporting role to Holly and Cel in a way that female supporting characters have traditionally done for strong male leads. The script does not give him much to do except to help the female leads along in their story. And the female leads explicitly reject the notion of being damsels in distress/in need of a knight in shining armour. This keeps the focus firmly on Holly and Cel, with no distraction on account of (or even any sense of investment in) the third character.
This show is openly a work about the messages it wants to portray, and it presents the audience with a few takeaways. First, that different people experience different struggles and these shouldn't be compared or stacked up against each other, because it's not a competition about who has it worse. Second, the beauty of empathy and understanding in friendship, and having someone to share your troubles with, someone who can offer validation and moral support even if they can't look after you because of their own circumstances. Third, the importance of self-care and taking the time and space needed to deal with your own problems, even if other people don't understand.
Uterus cake. Photo credit: Rhian Wilson.
Crash Pad is playing at The Butterfly Club from 17-23 September as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2018. It is a quality presentation about serious issues that people find themselves confronted with from time to time, and would resonate well with people who relate to circumstances like those of Holly and Cel.