The Empty Space, Salford; Friday 19th July, 2019
Jack Cray’s set is a right mess. Literally. His Aldi carrier bag doth spill right over: on the floor are dozens of his personal medical letters, and a few random copies of Epilepsy Review magazine.
Either he’s in the middle of a fit right now or we all need to massively raise our awareness of what this mysterious illness can do because he’s sat there, casually lounging on his table, big grin across his face, nibbling away at a bunch of grapes and some desiccated coconut. Just straight, neat desiccated coconut, straight from the pack. He’s eating it.
That bag of desiccated coconut becomes an hour of mystery, an on-stage villain; a tangible manifestation of Jack’s mind illness – the details of which he has so kindly decided to share with the world.
It’s not just the desiccated coconut that’s the villain, so are those letters on the floor: they present an agonising dilemma for mega-fans of the Data Protection Act and all that it stands for: should I look at them and try to read what they say? Maybe one of them will explain the coconut thing?
Jack’s story is one of cringing awkwardness – always having to explain to people that he’s busy having epilepsy, and warning them in advance that it may happen. The tales of Jack Cray are delivered as a medicinal admixture of stand-up routine and something a lot closer to fringey theatre, thanks to the clever use of interactive video clips on the back wall.
Much is to be learned and there are clearly some in the audience who just know – the loudest and most nervous laughs seem to be at the in-jokes. We learn of the dreaded diazepam pen. I thought I knew about this: I’ve got a diabetic mate who uses a pen thing – but no, this is a pen like no other, it really should not be called a pen. I can never look at another pen again.
The stories from Jack’s life with epilepsy seem to be tales of always formulating and preparing escape options for when it happens – much like a Terminator who can plan multiple exit routes and defence strategies for any situation.
Such a world seems so strange at first but Jack carefully inserts enough documentary-like material to begin to explain it – with plenty of medical advice and even some mind-boggling brain science.
Jack Cray: The Fittest Guy On The Street is a highly entertaining and informative hour of stand-up (and lie down) theatrics. So many hidden details are exposed and openly flaunted, but this is more than a salacious peek into someone else’s medical records (which he left lying on the floor anyway, and I wasn’t really looking), this properly ticks the theatre boxes because it gives a delicious and naughty insight (for those of us who will never know) into what it must actually feel like when it happens.