Ludlow Fringe Festival 2019
Mental health and psychiatric wards are not necessarily the first stop for humour but then this marvellous show isn’t at all what it initially seems to be, much like the characters themselves.
Rob Gee draws on his experiences as a psychiatric nurse to bring us his tale of Kevin who has been diagnosed with mental disorders that are summed up with (as he snarls it to us) “delusions of grandeur”, a diagnosis he strongly resents. Well, who wouldn’t if they already knew they were the reincarnation of Rameses II and were waiting to return to Egypt to reclaim their kingdom.
Kevin bursts out of Rob, gripping the audience with his commanding presence and booming voice, demanding that we see his point of view. Which of course we do, for he has the logical mind of the “mad” within the evident indignity of his perceived madness of incarceration. “Half the patients here think they are Jesus while all the doctors think they are God”.
There are many, many lines like this, delivered at breakneck pace, and each seems to hover in the air long after they have been said to allow us to process what is actually being said. Kevin is not our only protagonist, as he fashions his escape we are led into a world inhabited by several characters, all delivered in beautifully measured tones and with such recognisably different styles that you realise you looking through several keyholes. These are lives which, although not first having any threads of connection quickly bind together in a weave of happenstance and coincidence.
The poignant combination of the mentally ill Kevin with the mentally unformed six year-old Millie is in itself a delightful notion – the logic of both is just sparkling and within their charming innocence we can question our own sanity and “grownup-ness”
Beautifully realised, this show is a treat. Simply staged with music completely apposite to the dialogue, it makes for a thought-provoking evening about the relevance of caring for the mentally ill to simply caring for one another.