Ruby Wax - Losing It
Ruby. Wax. Is. Fucking. Fierce.
While it comes as no suprise that Ruby Wax looks exactly the same as she did 20 years ago (she's still rocking the red lipstick and freely admits to botox), it's thrilling to see the lovable comic has retained the same razor sharp edge and energy with which she made her name - if anything she sparkles brighter now. This despite a roller-coaster of a decade or two, throughout which she's suffered from depression of varying degrees: the subject of this highly unique stand up show.
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The first half of this tour de force, whistle stop tour of Ruby's colourful experiences with depresson is superior to the second. It's relentless; moments of genuine emotion and profundity abound as the 50-something bravely shares the true depths of her mental illness, describing in detail the unglamorous reality of the condition at its worst; the parts overlooked in Hollywood's frequently glossy representations (the potential descent of the sufferer's personal hygiene, for example). The parts that are impossible to romanticise or indeed even intellectualise - all of the ugly emotions that public figures seldom admit to possessing, Ruby lays claim to. Her honesty is a breathtaking disorientating detour from the endlessly premeditated images of perfection portrayed by the public figures whose shiny, shiny faces radiate from the copy of Hello! Ruby rips up in a fit of existential despair.
But just as the atmosphere becomes too dark or too bleak, and at moments indeed uncomfortable (as she herself points out, the taboo of mental illness still thrives, having outlived all the others, including homosexuality), she punctuates with humour, her timing impeccable. The laughs come thick and fast - put simply she's got the kind of cartoonish personality that can provoke hysterics simply with a funny face or a funny voice; her repertoire of English accents, particularly, are a riot. Equally riotous is Wax's impersonation of her tyrannical Polish mother (whom, she implies, may too have suffered from depression, albeit undiagnosed) or her recalling of the salsa dancing classes she was made to take at rehab. She'll commonly go off on unnecessary but tension relieving tangents, recounting the time she interviewed any number of narcissistic celebrities (*cough* Madonna *cough*) and the hilarity that prevailed.
Inevitably Ruby comes off as narcissistic herself at times. But one gets the impression that this is a conscious decision; just as her tightly scripted soliloquies begin to agitate and you're presented with what could well be an example of just how unbearable and, well, nuts Ruby might behave at her obsessive and depressive worst (once again, there's little that's glamorous about this illness, unfortunately), the second woman in this two woman show - Ruby's friend and fellow comrade, the somewhat elusive vocalist Judith Owen, beautiful of face and beautiful of voice - seizes the audience's attention for a matter of seconds. Either with a beautiful piano ballad or a breathy, whispered confession, drawing from her own experiences with mental illness, that will break the hardest of hearts. At a glance her contribution to the show is far less than Ruby's, but on balance her stoic and, yes, largely silent presence is a crucial antidote to her partner's brash antics. As an actress, her soft and understated portrait of sadness, especially while singing, is probably more affecting than Ruby's.
An interval is followed by a question and answer session which jars harshly with the impeccably rehearsed section that precedes it. The venue isn't intimate enough to lend itself to the Q&A, and was indeed so big that mics rarely reached questioners in time, often meaning you weren't privy to any rapports built.
Some complained this part of the show felt like a self help group and there is some truth to this; there were tears from some who too felt inclined to share with a room full of strangers their hardships, albeit far less eloquently or interestingly than the women on stage; ultimately equal parts moving and annoying.
The evening's low-point, and I would never have predicted this, came courtesy of the more ignorant, rude and disbelieving among the audience, whose idiotic questions shocked and cut through the comedy and remaining frivolity like a knife, no matter how quick Ruby's reactionary wit or Judith's calm and informed explanations.
These moments, like so much of the show, were tough to witness but nevertheless revealing: the stigma attached to ailments of the brain STILL dictates societal attitudes, and it sucks. There are still walls to be pushed down, and Ruby and Judith's efforts to this end are priceless.
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0844 579 1973