Rob Gee wrote his solo show – Forget Me Not – The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit playing at the 2018 Toronto Fringe – based on his experiences as a registered nurse in the mid-90s. The show is used by the National Health Service in the UK as part of their training of healthcare providers in the areas of compassion and reporting concerns.
Sounds dry, doesn’t it? Not at all! Rob has combined comedy and social commentary in a show that’s sometimes hysterical, sometimes heartbreaking, always kind.
It sounds like a contradiction to say that Gee’s play is kind when so many of the characters – all played by Gee – are not, but it isn’t. Somehow the script treats the patients with respect even though the staff don’t.
The play is set in the “challenging behaviour” ward of a second-rate care facility in the UK. The patients in the ward all have late-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia.
There’s no set, and the only prop is a chair that some of the characters use from time to time. I like that. When the writing’s good like that, I get to imagine the set. In my mind’s eye it was pretty bleak. Institutional green walls that were about seven years overdue for painting and fluorescent lights that buzzed.
I’m not sure how many characters Gee played, I think it was six. It was in my notes, along with names, but my notes got left in a streetcar. At least two of these characters were women.
The differences Gee made between the characters were subtle. Changing his accent, raising or lowering his voice slightly, changing his body language. But once he’d introduced a character I had no trouble knowing who was who.
The main character of the piece is Jim. He’s a lovely character. Still deeply in love with his wife after decades of marriage, mourning her, investigating her death, and at the same time forgetting that she’s dead.
His wife has just died after falling. Jim’s a retired police detective and thinks her death looks suspicious; he decides to investigate. Unfortunately, he’s just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is having trouble with his short-term memory. He’s determined to find his wife’s killer, so he writes all his questions, clues, and conclusions down in a little notebook that he carries with him.
The detective inspector who arrives to investigate is pompous, arrogant, and condescending. He’s never met an idiom he couldn’t mangle. One of my favourites was “Don’t try and pull my leg over my eyes!” There were dozens more, each one more outrageous than the one before and they kept coming faster and faster. The audience was hooting with laughter, and Gee managed an entire paragraph consisting of mangled idioms.
If you like your laughs to be reality-based, this is a show for you. I laughed a lot and shed a few tears. I enjoyed it.
- Forget Me Not – The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit plays at the St. Vladimir Institute. (620 Spadina Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warning: Mature language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route. After the building’s business hours, a staff member will need to escort you through this route, so plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early for evening shows.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Friday July 6th, 5:00 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 11:00 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 7:00 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 5:00 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 9:15 pm
- Friday July 13th, 1:45 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 12:00 pm
Photo of Rob Gee by Nick Rawle