Ruby Wax – Losing It, Menier Chocolate Factory, London
Monday 28 February 2011
Ruby Wax rose to fame by making an exhibition of exhibitionists, mugging at the camera behind the backs of celebrities and mocking their self-involved lack of circumspection.
When the victim deserved it (O J Simpson, say), one cheered her on. When the justice of this method was more debatable – as in the clever but cruel treatment of Liza Minnelli – one did not know where to look.
Now Ruby is giving herself a right old Wax-ing in Ruby Wax – Losing It, a one-woman show featuring two women – her friend, the singer-pianist Judith Owen, plays Madge to her Dame Edna and is allowed the odd musical intervention in Thea Sharrock's limp production. It was pretty obvious from the attention-seeking drive of those TV documentaries that Wax was a nervous breakdown waiting to happen. The depressive illness that this triggered and the medicated life she has had to lead since form the focus of her brave but often bewilderingly bad piece.
Too much of the first half is taken up with Ruby clattering through a load of clichés about the addictive but dangerous nature of fame. There's a lot of grinning cattiness at shamelessly easy targets. What's intriguing is that just as in the television programmes, she's mugging behind the back of someone – but here the victim is herself or rather that more sensitive soul she has become because of her illness. That side of her surfaced much more sympathetically in the Q&A session that constitutes the second half of the show. She listened carefully and respectfully to those with mental illness – including this bipolar critic – who made comments. I asked her whether if she could reinvent the universe, she would eliminate depression and depressives. She implied in her answer that there are no gains from this condition. To me, by contrast, a world without shadow would effectively rule out the sun.
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