For my money the most magical thing at the Swindon Fringe last year, by a narrow margin, was Rob Gee’s one man show ‘Kevin, King of Egypt’. It was the hilarious yet oddly touching tale of an escaped mental patient’s attempt to fly to Cairo to claim the throne of the late Pharoaoh Ramses II.
So, fair to say, I was looking forward to Gee’s return to the Fringe with ‘Fruitcake: Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward’. He spent 12 years as a psychiatric nurse before moving into poetry and performance and his last show demonstrated an ability to delicately mix insight, understanding and gleefully farcical humour.
‘Fruitcake’ draws on his experience in a more direct way than ‘Kevin, King of Egypt’. If the latter was a one-man play this is more a one-man review of his time as a psychiatric nurse, told in prose and verse. Each section was broken up by a Commandment of the Psyche Ward – delivered by the voice of God in fruity West Indian tones – and looks at the loose rules that made his time in the Psyche Ward function.
Parts of the show is unflinching and potentially uncomfortable. He cared for people who were coping with schizophrenia, depression, substance abuse, suicidal urges and consequences of self-mutilation. That said there really – really – isn’t anything in the human experience that’s so perverse that it can’t be sympathetically mined for a little humour. Gee’s ex-patients were people and he paints them so with his words.
A word of warning though: if you’re sat on the front row you might get called up on stage to demonstrate how to restrain a violent patient.
Yes, that was me.
No, I don’t want to talk about it.
But after a very enjoyable hour of 10 Commandments, much pathos and plenty of laughter Rob Gee ended on a song. It was another great night. Hopefully he’ll be back again for the Fringe next year.
The Swindon Fringe continues until 15th April