Icarus at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Rob Gee in Icarus. Photo credit: Nick Rawle

Rob Gee in Icarus. Photo credit: Nick Rawle

Icarus by Rob Gee
August 12, 13, 16 – 19, 21 at Venue #5: King Edward Elementary School
More information: robgee.co.uk

An interview with Rob Gee. 

Describe your show in five words. 

Victoria Times Colonist nailed it: “A mind-roasting bipolar joyride! ★★★★½”

I’ve counted those star icons as one word,  in case you’re wondering.

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

Escaped psychiatric patient Simon Haggerty is not pleased about his diagnosis, even less pleased about being committed, and distinctly upset about being told he is not the reincarnation of an Egyptian Pharaoh. On his way to Egypt, via the 7-11, he stumbles across the nemesis to all his plans: Millie – a six year old with a mouth like a sandblaster. Together they embark on a delightful odyssey that will change their lives forever.

How did your former experience as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital help you create this show?

I first came up with the central character many years when I used to play “a manic patient” for medical students’ exams. He was a great vehicle for educating the students. People experiencing a manic or hypomanic episode can be devastatingly articulate, and are therefore delightful – if demanding – to nurse, as long as you keep a good humour, stay firm but sympathetic, and don’t take things too personally.

When I was writing Icarus I bounced it off several people I used to nurse back in the day. It couldn’t have been written without them!

Your shows about mental health tend to walk a fine line between humour and respect of the topic. How do you manage to maintain this balance?

I think as long as your jokes come from a place of compassion, you can’t miss. People don’t lose their sense of humour just because they’ve lost their marbles; in fact people will often come out of a psychiatric experience having used humour as a coping mechanism. Absurdity is something to be enjoyed and celebrated, and we all have our own unique and beautiful ways of being ridiculous, whether we’re mentally ill or not.

Icarus is part of a trilogy of shows you’ve created and performed about mental health. How do the three shows work together and what did you want to say about mental health through them?

The three shows stand alone from each other. Roughly speaking, Fruitcake is from the perspective of a nurse, Forget Me Not is from the perspective of a carer and Icarus is from the perspective of a patient. If there is a message going through them it’s this: that psychiatric illness isn’t something that happens to other people. It can happen to any of us at any time, so it doesn’t make sense to view it as something out of the ordinary.

The 35th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 11 – 21. Tickets go on sale August 3 at noon and will be available at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.

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