Monday, July 29, 2013

The Question... Rob Gee of Fruitcake: Ten Commandments From the Psych Ward (Fringe: Calgary)

comedy, rhymes, stories and moving bits
by Estelle Rosen

Rob Gee qualified as a psychiatric nurse in 1994 and worked for 11 years in psychiatric units around the UK and Australia. Specializing in acute psychiatry, he has also worked in child and adolescent units, drug and alcohol services, therapeutic communities, eating disorder and early psychosis intervention services, and psychiatric intensive care units. Now a full-time stand up poet, Rob has toured the UK, Europe, Australia and North America, won numerous poetry slams, and regularly appears on BBC Radio. Rob's is the only performance ever to have instigated a fight at the UK's Leamington Spa Peace Festival.

CHARPO: You're described in the Calgary Fringe press info as being in the genres of storytelling, poet, performance, and comedy. That covers quite a range! Your bio also includes reformed psychiatric nurse. Was that the motivation for this play with the intriguing title Fruitcake: Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward?

GEE: It was! I was a psychiatric nurse for 11 years - I was keen to write Fruitcake because the psych nurses' viewpoint rarely gets articulated and we're the only profession that sees our patients 24 hours a day. I left nursing several years ago and after a few years' distance, all the psychiatry-fuelled opinions, theories, rants and one-liners in my head had finally settled into something manageable and surprisingly jolly. Also, I fell in love with the idea of representing God as an elderly Rastafarian lady, and then I had no choice but to make it happen.

Admittedly, comedian, poet, and storyteller is quite an expansive description, because all those things are in there. I've been described by reviewers as everything from “The missing link between theatre and rock 'n' roll,” to “Gollum on meth”. The core of what I do is slam poetry, but it's funnier than most slam poems, and I love telling jokes. It's also very theatrical. Basically, it's stand up comedy, with rhymes, stories and moving bits. 

Fruitcake: Ten Commandments From the Psych Ward is at the Calgary Fringe

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