Review: Funny and touching

Rob Gee in 'Fruitcake - Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward'. Photo: Nick Rawle
Rob Gee in 'Fruitcake - Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward'. Photo: Nick Rawle

Being new to this review-writing gig and a studious type, I’ve brought a pen to make notes on the programme, which I balance on the only book in my bag (Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine). I see a fellow audience member look at me in my expectant note-taking position and realise I’ve erred.

Rob Gee, a former psychiatric nurse, is a tall, expressive chap with an English accent and an NHS lanyard. He warms us up with a lively yarn about a psychiatric inpatient he once met who robbed a bank with water pistols.

Things (rightly) take a turn for the earnest as he explains that given the right set of stressors any one of us could become mentally ill, and that mental illness symptoms are just amplified versions of normal thoughts and behaviours. My inner politically correct activist relaxes; as someone who has *ahem* had contact with mental health services on occasion, I think it’s great to laugh about the absurdities of mental illness, as long as it’s not at the expense of the mentally ill.

The rest of the show is a series of skits and monologues documenting the stories of the patients (and staff) from one night shift on an acute psych ward. These are punctuated by voiceover from ‘God’ delivering the titular Ten Commandments of the Psych Ward. (God is, of course, a Jamaican woman). 

It’s an hour of genuine belly laughs, and I actually spit out my drink laughing at one about trolleys. But peppered throughout the laughter are stories that give us pangs of empathy, and a truly touching moment when Rob describes being recognised and thanked by a former patient in a bar.

The act finishes with a song, and it’s testament to how much I enjoyed the show that I sing along for the chorus without reluctance.

Fruitcake is on until Wednesday at the Fringe Festival Club, 20 Princes St, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out. I’m told laughter is good for your mental health. 


Fruitcake - Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward
Rob Gee (UK)

At Dunedin Fringe Festival Club, 20 Princes St, Dunedin (1 hour)

Until 14 Mar 2018

- by Izzy Lomax-Sawyers originally for Theatreview

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