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Brighton Fringe 2016

The Gary and Robert Blues

Stephan Bessant for 'Forthright' Theatre Company

Genre: Solo Performance

Venue: The Warren: Studio 2


Low Down

A one man play about a man with mental problems trying to reconnect with the world through stand up comedy.


This is the second play I have reviewed in the Fringe this year concerning mental health. Whereas ‘Altered Minds, Altered Realities’ was a solo show featuring  six characters with different kinds of mental problems, ‘The Gary and Robert Blues’ concerns just one man’s story. The title refers to the football player/manager Gary Speed and someone else who committed suicide. Gary Speed was highly successful and well respected in the football world but still suffered from depression.

The set has a bed, a chair and  a large tv screen. There is also a webcam which at one stage is pointed at the audience. The actor starts talking to the audience and mentions various statistics about the numbers of people with mental health problems. The statistics are also flashed up on the screen. Although these are used to bring home the fact that such a large proportion of the population have, have had or will have problems with mental health I felt that it seems more like a lecture than a play. From then on the play develops into a mix of the character talking about his life and performing stand-up comedy as a way to finding a path through his confused and damaged mind. It is quite interesting that in ‘Altered Minds,Altered Realities’ one of the characters also takes to stand-up comedy to help himself. He never picks up the phone when it rings but listens to the messages and through these we get a glimpse of what his life is like and get an idea about his friends, family and work. He verges from humour to anger and talks about how much more difficult it is for men with problems to discuss them openly when women seem to get so much more sympathy and support from other women.

It is extremely well acted by Stephan Bessant with great energy. He connects directly with the audience with charm. One  believes totally in the character. Andy Higgitt is the writer/director.

I feel that the play could do with some cutting especially in the first part which seems to delay us getting an idea of the character. The stand-up comedy needs to be made more amusing. I like the way the action is interspersed with the ansamachine messages and blues music. I am not sure if I have been made more aware of the problems of mental health by seeing the play but it is an interesting production performed by a talented actor. It is certainly worthwhile being seen by people with an interest in mental health although having said that, the aim of the play is to make  people who perhaps have no interest in mental health aware of how widespread the problems are in society.