Vancouver Fringe Festival review: Fruitcake's psych-ward musings make for moments of uncomfortable laughter

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      In Fruitcake: Ten Commandments From the Psych Ward, the U.K.'s Rob Gee draws from his experiences as a psych nurse, and in some ways he feels like the kind of guy you’d be happy to have help you out. Off the top, he points out that normalcy is a “not very interesting illusion”. He notes that “the medical model and the pharmaceutical industry go together like peanuts and toxic shock,” and even as he demonstrates how to subdue an agitated patient, his tone of gentle respect is moving. That said, a lot of the comedy here comes from the sheer weirdness of mental illness: he invites us to laugh at a schizophrenic patient’s hallucination of foul-mouthed Asians on stilts, for instance. Laughter can make scary stuff easier to bear. Still, Gee’s description of a horrific self-mutilation feels exploitative—like an action sequence devoid of depth. Buoyancy is great. So is balance.

      At the Waterfront Theatre on September 12 (7:45 p.m.), 14 (8:35 p.m.), 15 (5:15 p.m.), 17 (12:25 p.m.), and 18 (8:55 p.m.)



      Lisa Barrett

      Sep 17, 2011 at 11:11pm

      I really have to take exception to Colin Thomas' review of this show, particularly the unfair accusation of anythng being exploitative. I've reviewed shows side-by-side with Colin Thomas, memorably on a fire escape at last year's Fringe. I know that he pays attention and takes notes. Having seen Fruitcake myself, I have to wonder if Colin's mind wandered or he neglected his notes because the scene where he accuses Rob Gee of being exploitative is not about a schizophrenic person at all. It's about an alcoholic who's gone cold turkey and is having hallucinations while in care.
      The self-harm scene is poetic and horrific and underscores the seriousness of mental health issues and the fact that any of us, given the circumstances, may become that person in care. I would hope to have someone as compassionate and caring as Rob Gee looking after me.
      If you missed the show (or saw it and loved it as I did), you may want to check out his website: and look for his lovely video pice titled "World's Worst Caht up Line" or something like that. Charming.

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