There’s a familiar traditional-northern-comic style about Kevin Dewsbury as he welcomes the audience to the room above the Meadows Bar, mixed with a bit of laddish banter. His stand-up set is based on his descent into and recovery from a psychotic episode. Mental illness is a subject that is not usually this visible; fellow comedian Ruby Wax’s recent documentary on Channel 4 challenged people’s perceptions and she stated, as does Dewsbury, that one in four people will at some point in their lives suffer a form of mental illness.
Dewsbury opened the set with his version of Ruby Ruby Ruby by the Kaiser Chiefs but with his own lyrics and reassured the audience that he wasn’t one of those ‘stabby nutters’. At once self-deprecating and confident he shared his ‘Nutter’s Guide to Avoiding Leafleters’ and even when some latecomers arrived he greeted them with warmth and not a hint of irony. He explained how he suffered hallucinations and delusions; the way he related this was particularly witty and unexpected.
The middle part of the gig was taken up by the main body of his breakdown story; the marriage, the gigging, the booze, the panic, the incarceration. His comment about the NHS even brought a whoop of recognition from one audience member.
This story is told with incredible candour and bravery, his delivery is spot on and the audience was very much on his side throughout, even through the more shocking moments. Dewsbury is able to relate his experiences in terms that we can all understand, like when he compared some of his crazier stunts to being on the next level of a computer game, demystifying them and so shattering the taboos that usually surround mental illness. There was no pity, just a lot of laughter and the moment of revelation near the end was immensely cathartic which, after another delightfully funny song had the audience delivering their support with huge and heartfelt applause.