Earlier this year, I watched a series of short plays by Little Pieces of Gold that tackled the subject of social media and its impact on our lives. Epsilon Productions’ take on Kathy Rucker’s Crystal Springs encapsulates many of the issues discussed, in a singular, gripping narrative.
Following the pattern of the movie Irreversible, where the tale is told in reverse chronological order, Crystal Springs traces the chain of events that led to a teenage girl taking her own life.
Claire (Lucy Roslyn) is a journalist who has been commissioned to write a book about a true case of cyber-bullying. Approaching Rose (Angela Bull), mother of Hayley, the victim, Claire finds her quite receptive to conversation after months of other people avoiding her. However on the subject of the book itself, Rose doesn’t want to say anything...
In contrast, Linda – mother of Hayley’s best friend Jenna – and Mia, Linda’s former assistant, are eager to tell their side of events, as if guilt compels them to or exoneration is sought. It comes to light that comments were made about Hayley online by Jenna, Mia and Linda – but only because Hayley allegedly made similar comments herself. As Hayley was already taking antidepressants, this was all the excuse needed to cast aspersions onto her mental health.
‘Truth’ in the play is a commodity that’s valued, but as the audience watches each scene, they are forced to reappraise each new revelation with the past behaviour of the characters. Nobody gets way blame-free, as assumptions and hearsay are used by everyone to justify their behaviour.
Rather than stigmatise young people, Rucker cleverly shows in the play that the craving for popularity and behaving childishly isn’t the monopoly of teenagers – that the adults are prone to similar drives themselves. Rose reproaches Hayley for caring too much about status and see technology as a platform that could undermines her esteem. However Rose is also reticent to invite Linda to the neighbourhood book club as she didn’t think her personality would mesh there, among other things. Linda conversely has misgivings about Rose’s ‘cool’ behaviour, begetting the series of events that would lead to tragedy.
Rose, as played by Angela Bull, is confident, cultured and – as befitting an estate agent – can departmentalise emotions and opinions, as and when necessary. There are some things she knows or believes with an ironclad certainty and doesn’t want her daughter to be at the mercy of others’ opinions.
Hayley, her daughter as played by Rebecca Boey, is convincingly less self-assured than her mother. Lacking Rose’s savoir faire, Hayley is prone to anxiety attacks and her only ‘rebellious act’ is to check social media at the behest of her best friend Jenna. Her raw emotions, like an exposed nerve, are not so far removed from Linda’s...
Suzan Sylvester does a grand job playing emotionally complex Linda. Still smarting from her husband leaving her for another woman and carrying trust issues in general, Linda is unimpressed with Rose’s ‘cool’ reaction to her wanting to join the book club and be friends.
Pearl Mackie endows Mia, Linda’s assistant with a big heart and an innate sensitivity. Naturally the most reflective of the trio before and after the cyber-bullying affair, Mia’s actions are borne out a familial bond with Linda.
As Linda’s daughter, Tiana Khan is uncanny at showing the contrasts between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ Jenna (or rather the other way around), and wary of Mia being emotionally ‘clingy’ towards her mother. The irony is the ‘neediness’ she sees in Mia is how Rose views her mother. Whose daughter is whose?
Finally there’s Lucy Roslyn’s spirited performance of Claire. Removed from the cool, detached journalists of old, Claire is a passionate soul who has a personal stake in the cyber-bullying story, the way it resonates with her affects her words and decisions.
All in all, Crystal Springs has a very good ensemble cast that does justice to the six well-rounded female characters.
In the play’s programme, author Kathy Rucker disclosed that when she started to worked on this play, her nine-year-old daughter petitioned to have her own mobile phone. Realising a simple “no” would not have sufficed, Rucker had to articulate reasons for why this was not a good idea. In a moment of clarity, Rucker realised it was the idea of her daughter using social media that was frightening, the dangers from without and the opinions of one’s peers.
This play is a worthy response to her daughter. Life is messy. People hurt each other all the time with what they say, but as far as you are able, be kind to one another. And just like in the case of Jenna when you realise the consequences of your actions, a little contrition goes a long way.
(c) Michael Davis 2014