Fruitcake - Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward

Dunedin Fringe Festival Club, 20 Princes St, Dunedin

11/03/2018 - 14/03/2018

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

22/03/2018 - 24/03/2018

NZ Fringe Festival 2018 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Dunedin Fringe 2018

Production Details

Comic, poet and reformed psychiatric nurse Rob Gee presents a user-friendly guide to losing the plot.

Fruitcake charts a night shift on an acute psychiatric ward, seen through the eyes of a jaded nurse who hears the voice of God – a kindly Jamaican woman – who gives him ten benevolent commandments to help him through the shift; and life.

“A witty, skilful storyteller… Gee has pitched it perfectly” Chortle, UK
★★★★★ “Hilarious… a one-man thespian army.” CBC, Canada
★★★★½ “A tour de force!” Victoria Times, Canada
★★★★ “One show you’d be crazy to miss!” Toronto Eye
★★★★½ “A fist rate show.” Calgary Herald
★★★★½ “Hilarious… poignant… life affirming… joyful!” Uptown Magazine, Canada
“Terrifically well-written… the kind of Fringe performer you pray you’ll discover.” Orlando Sentinel
“This is a man who stared into the abyss and saw it wink back at him.” The Ubyssey, Vancouver
“An unforeseen highlight, a convulsively funny and surprisingly moving tribute to humanity’s collective psychosis.” Minnesota Examiner
Best of Fest – Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary Fringe Festivals
Patron’s Pick – Winnipeg Fringe
Best Spoken Word – Minnesota Fringe
Critic’s Pick – Toronto Fringe

Dunedin Fringe 2018 
Dunedin Fringe Festival Club, 20 princes St
11-14 March 2018 
Ticket price range $20, concession $15 
Booking details 

NZ Fringe 2018
Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Thursday 22 – Saturday 24 March 2018
Concession/Student $15 | Fringe Addict $13 | Full $19

Wheelchair access available.

Theatre , Solo , Comedy ,

1 hour

Informative, absorbing, sometimes salutary

Review by Margaret Austin 23rd Mar 2018

‘Fruitcake’ seemingly designates the human beings Rob Gee is going to tell us about as he takes the stage at the Gryphon Theatre. A few minutes into his monologue, however, we’re not too sure if the term doesn’t equally describe him.

In a distinctively regional English accent, he provides us with a running commentary on patients he has encountered during twelve years working as a qualified psychiatric nurse in the UK and Australia. 

Any earnestness he may feel about such a role is well tempered with humour and an understandable detachment. We hear about the two patients who apparently tried robbing a bank (spoiler averted), the man who is in for using produce as a weapon in Pak’n’Save, those who want to self-harm and must be dealt with practically …

Gee doesn’t stop at stories about patients. There’s the Polish nurse who, attempting to describe patient behaviour, uses a wrong word for slapping. And the psychiatrist who somehow committed himself to a psychiatric ward.

It’s a relief to see a performer without a microphone – often unnecessary anyway. Transitions are signalled by blackouts.

Gee’s narrative is informative, absorbing, sometimes salutary. He requires an audience member to demonstrate restraints. The performance culminates in a song and dance number, notable for its frisky words and moves.

If there are Ten Commandments here, I don’t pick up on them. Gee’s intention is to reveal without judging, enjoy without demeaning. The nearest he gets to a moral or a message is: “Instincts don’t let you down”. His seem to have survived.


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Funny and touching

Review by Izzy Lomax-Sawyers 12th Mar 2018

Being new to this review-writing gig and a studious type, I’ve brought a pen to make notes on the programme, which I balance on the only book in my bag (Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine). I see a fellow audience member look at me in my expectant note-taking position and realise I’ve erred.

Rob Gee, a former psychiatric nurse, is a tall, expressive chap with an English accent and an NHS lanyard. He warms us up with a lively yarn about a psychiatric inpatient he once met who robbed a bank with water pistols.

Things (rightly) take a turn for the earnest as he explains that given the right set of stressors any one of us could become mentally ill, and that mental illness symptoms are just amplified versions of normal thoughts and behaviours. My inner politically correct activist relaxes; as someone who has *ahem* had contact with mental health services on occasion, I think it’s great to laugh about the absurdities of mental illness, as long as it’s not at the expense of the mentally ill.

The rest of the show is a series of skits and monologues documenting the stories of the patients (and staff) from one night shift on an acute psych ward. These are punctuated by voiceover from ‘God’ delivering the titular Ten Commandments of the Psych Ward. (God is, of course, a Jamaican woman). 

It’s an hour of genuine belly laughs, and I actually spit out my drink laughing at one about trolleys. But peppered throughout the laughter are stories that give us pangs of empathy, and a truly touching moment when Rob describes being recognised and thanked by a former patient in a bar.

The act finishes with a song, and it’s testament to how much I enjoyed the show that I sing along for the chorus without reluctance.

Fruitcake is on until Wednesday at the Fringe Festival Club, 20 Princes St, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out. I’m told laughter is good for your mental health. 


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