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Forget Me Not: The Alzheimer's Whodunnit

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Let's face it, who doesn't enjoy a good whodunnit? Well, Forget Me Not: The Alzheimer's Whodunnit is coming to Theatre Deli on 25 & 26 September. We chatted to the show's writer and solo performer Rob Gee to find out more about this 'subversive detour into the dark side of institutional care' (Gig City, Alberta).

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, I'm Rob and I used to be a psychiatric nurse. My show is a murder mystery set on an Alzheimer's ward.

What inspired you to write Forget Me Not?

A lot of the show was based on my experiences as a student nurse on a "challenging behaviour" ward for people with late stage dementia about 25 years ago. The care was atrocious. You wouldn't have sent a dog there. I eventually left under a bit of a cloud after reporting some of what I saw.

Also, I'd always wanted to write and perform a one-man murder mystery. For a good murder mystery, you need an enclosed environment, such as an island or a train, so as to limit your pool of suspects. I realised a dodgy elderly psych ward in the mid-1990s would be just such a place.

What do you think makes comedy and theatre particularly well-suited to exploring mental health issues?

I think it's enormously important to discuss and normalise subjects like mental health and, as an entertainer, you want to do it in a way that makes people smile. As George Bernard Shaw said, "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh or they will kill you."

Most people who've had a loved one with dementia will tell you that humour helped, as will most people who've had an inpatient psychiatric experience. As someone I once nursed put it, "Laughter soothes a broken soul and reminds us we're not alone."

The fact is that we all have our own unique and beautiful ways of being ridiculous, and that doesn't change simply because we lose the plot. For me, I think if you can create a show that people enjoy and then find themselves thinking about the next day, you've done your job.

You've been touring the show since April. How has it been received so far?

I've been touring it since 2013! It's done the USA and Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand - even Derby.

It's been the most delightful time ever. I've performed it on a boat and in prisons. It's done an audience of psychiatric doctors, and now the NHS are using it to train healthcare staff in ethics.

It's also been performed by an ensemble of high school kids in Victoria, as well as an older person's theatre company in Winnipeg. The cast all took me out to dinner and introduced themselves in role. It was such a surreal experience, I'm not entirely sure it actually happened.

What do you hope audience members will take away from the performance?

A copy of the book.

Finally, can you describe the show in three words?

Cluedo meets Memento.

Forget Me Not: The Alzheimer's Whodunnit is on at Theatre Deli on 25 & 26 September. Tickets available here.

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)

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