Fruitcake at Edmonton Fringe Festival

Fruitcake: 10 Commandments from the Psyche Ward
Venue 5: King Edward Elementary August 15 – 17, 19, 21, 23, 24
More information at: robgee.co.uk


An interview with creator and performer, Rob Gee

Describe your show in five words.

Psych nurse’s reflections on insanity.

Okay, now that we’re intrigued.. what’s the longer description?

Fruitcake charts a night shift on an acute psychiatric ward, seen through the eyes of a jaded nurse who hears the voice of God – who, for the purposes of the show is a kindly Rastafarian lady. She gives him ten benevolent commandments to help him through the shift; and life.

Fruitcake was at the 2009 Edmonton Fringe Festival. In the five years since it was in Edmonton how – if at all – has the show grown? How have audiences reacted to it over the last 5 years and have those reactions changed?

2009 was Fruitcake’s first year, so it did Edmonton during its evolutionary phase. Since then it has slowly morphed over the course of 150 or so performances to become the beast it is now. It’s tighter and sharper basically.

Reactions haven’t changed – when I first wrote the show I was smart – or foolhardy – enough to perform it to a bunch of ex-patients. Without their approval, it would never have seen the light of day. Over the course of its five years it’s won more awards than any other show I’ve got, and reactions always seem to be favourable. The lovely thing for me is that I’m not bored of doing it – it never feels like I’m going through the motions or performing in autopilot. For me it’s as fresh as a daisy, albeit a slightly twisted daisy.

You say Fruitcake started out as a means of debunking the idea that mental illness only happens to others. There’s so many ways we can open people’s eyes to things through the arts – what approach does your show take and why does that work for this particular show?

There are two pitfalls in doing a show about mental health: one is that it becomes preachy and bogged down in it’s own worthiness; the other is that, rather than saying anything of any substance it’s just loads of cheap laughs about other people going mad. I’ve tried to avoid both. There’s plenty of laughs in Fruitcake, but everyone’s a target, including nurses, psychiatrists and the drug companies.

Fruitcake is a first and foremost a comedy show, with elements of slam poetry, storytelling, audience banter and an upbeat Ska song thrown in for good measure. The message is clear enough, but if you want to open people’s eyes to things through the arts, you’re obliged to entertain them. And I’ve always liked funny. I’ve tried to write dramas, but they always lapse into something ridiculous.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

Last time Fruitcake did Edmonton, it achieved 100% sell out, and all the tickets sold out 24 hours before each show. Not wanting to tempt fate, but it’s a good idea to get your ticket straight way.

Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (local Edmonton arts people or otherwise)? Jean Binta Breeze (the voice of God in the show) deserves a mention. She’s a dub poet from Jamaica who’s lived with a diagnosis of schizophrenia for several decades. She’s one of my favourite poets ever, and the perfect choice to play God in my humble opinion!

The 33rd Edmonton International Fringe is August 14 – 24. I’ll be previewing shows up until the Fringe starts. Want your show to appear on After the House Lights? Email jennamarynowski@gmail.com. 

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