Swindon Fringe Special: Kevin, King of Egypt – by Rob Gee – Town Hall Theatre, Swindon, Saturday 8th April

Kevin Haggerty is a reasonable man. All he wants to do is catch his flight to Egypt tomorrow so that he can claim his rightful throne as the reincarnation of pharaoh Ramses II. However first there’s the small matter of his psychiatric re-evaluation as he’s currently detained in a secure ward under the 1983 Mental Health Act.

When the re-evaluation doesn’t go quite as well as it might Kevin takes an opportunity to release himself under his own auspices. However, a chance encounter with a lost and tearful six-year old called Millie sends Kevin off on different adventure entirely.

In the sub-tropical heat of Town Hall Theatre the stage is bathed in darkness. The lighting technician has obviously been overcome by the unseasonable warmth. Smelling salts are presumably fetched as, eventually, the lights come up to show the bald, bespectacled and exuberant figure of Rob Gee. He is accompanied on stage solely by a chair and a huge and toothy grin.

 

And then the words begin to flow and we’re taken on a quite marvellous adventure.

 

Kevin, himself, is a very likable creation; irrepressible, garrulous, hyperbolic and gloriously forthright. Caught on the crest of a manic episode he barrels aside every impediment on his mission to reclaim his rightful throne. At the same time Gee doesn’t hold back from showing the damage his illness causes to those who know him; not least his long-suffering friend and flat mate Marcus.

 

Gee also creates a fine cast of supporting characters. Marcus – the lovelorn Tesco security guard – is wonderfully dour and Millie – the little girl who ends up in Kevin’s care – is nearly as mouthy and wilful as her temporary guardian. Most affecting of all though is the sympathetic way he sketches Millie’s father. He’s a man ruined by the death of his wife, but holding himself together through alcohol for the sake of his daughter; living from bottle to bottle.

 

Rob Gee worked as a psychiatric nurse for 11 years before becoming a performance poet; he’s served on the front line. This is the third of a trilogy about mental illness. What he’s created is funny and, more importantly, rings true.

 

On reflection after I realised that Kevin, King of Egypt is essentially a fairy tale. It’s a quest where the hero is a man in the grip of a bi-polar related mania, his loyal squire is an illegal immigrant taxi driver, the princess is a little girl whose lost her father in the wilds of the city and the wicked witch is her grandmother working an illicit cottage industry out of her living room.

It’s a story littered with the grit of harsh reality, but sprinkled with stardust.

 

 

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