Ex-psychiatric nurse Rob Gee uses laughter in Sheffield show Forget Me Not to look at dementia care
“Forget Me Not is a whodunnit set in an Alzheimer’s ward – it’s Cluedo meets Memento,” said Rob.
“It’s a one-man murder mystery. I play 15 characters who deliver a series of plot twists, red herrings and clues.”
The show is coming to Theatre Deli in Sheffield on September 25 and 26.
Rob calls himself a stand-up poet and performs comic poetry on stage.
He said: “I always wanted to write a solo murder mystery to see if I could get away with it. I was a psychiatric nurse for years and I’ve already written one show about psychiatry and it had gone really well.”
A tough start to his nursing career helped to inspire the show, said Rob. “As a student nurse in the mid-1990s, I had a period of time on an elderly challenging behaviour ward, working with people with late stage dementia.
“There were three ex-boxers on that ward and four members of staff per shift – 7.5 patients per staff member. There was a high burn-out rate.
“I was there for two-and-a-half months – I got assaulted more in eight weeks than in the secure ward, which was supposed to be at the sharp end of things.”
He said that the dementia patients were completely unpredictable, whereas there was usually a pattern to violence on the secure ward.
“People just punched you for no reason, which led to some of the most atrocious care ever. I ended up leaving the ward after reporting some of the care I witnessed.”
He saw incidents including a member of staff pushing a patient and said nobody did anything about it.
Staff ostracised him, seeing his actions as disloyal.
The show has now been used as part of staff training by the NHS on ethics and how to report their concerns.
Following the Francis Report on serious failings in one healthcare trust, new ‘freedom to speak up’ policies have been put in place so that staff are more confident to share their patient safety concerns.
Rob does his shows and takes part in discussions as part of training to help staff tackle the issues.
However, he stressed that the show is a lot of fun: “It’s primarily a crime caper. The goal is to entertain an audience – I want them to leave with a massive grin on their faces .”
He added: “There are a lot of horror stories in the news about institutionalised settings with the elderly and vulnerable.
“That made me think about my experiences as a 20-year-old student nurse. I realised after that eight weeks I was getting more slapdash in my care, seeing people as a task.
“People had been working there for 20 years – what chance had they got to look after themselves emotionally?”
Rob used to perform for many years while still working full time in the NHS.
He has fond memories of appearing at the Last Laugh comedy shows in Sheffield as part of a double act.
“When I hear Sheffield, I always smile. With Sheffield, I think it’s the people – I never, ever had a gig where I did not chat to strangers at some point. They were unpretentious, friendly, nice audiences.”
Box office: www.theatredeli.co.uk or eventbrite.co.uk