Hot Ruby Wax wins Belfast over with frank and funny show
Ruby Wax: Out Of Her Mind - Waterfront Hall, Belfast
How do you make mental illness funny? Ricky Gervais hasn't returned my calls on that one, so why not get Ruby Wax to do a show about it?
In Out Of Her Mind, which opened the Belly Laughs Comedy Festival last night, Wax not only attempted to explode some of the stigma and misconceptions, she also used herself as a test case.
Her own lifelong struggles with depression have, she joked, made her "a poster girl for mental illness".
But in between the barbs and waspish asides last night, Wax managed a rather sensitive and astute deconstruction of what it is to have an illness she passionately advocates is every bit as physical as – say – a broken arm.
The freshly graduated Oxford Master of Cognitive Therapy brought some literal white coat gravitas to the fun, whether it was discussing the near ludicrous complexity of the human brain or making the only slightly more ludicrous connection between humanity as the pinnacle of evolution and Twitter.
"Ruby – you've got a disability. Use it." She wisecracked at the start of the show, before adding to the Belfast audience: "I've always dreamed of coming here. And now I'm here."
The trademark Wax abrasion may have mellowed somewhat, maybe tempered by the subject matter, but she still had room for some gynaecological filth and a little enjoyable mother bashing – a long-standing Wax "thing".
The big basic question Wax wanted us to ask ourselves was "how do we live this life?", as she proceeded to give us a whistlestop travelogue through her personal life, both exterior and interior.
The conclusions she came to, such as "there's no manual for life" may have had the ironic ring of a self-help manual.
But this open-hearted and headed show was at its best when she was gently savaging all about her, from her own uptight mother, to the very different kind of mummies at a school sports day – the scene of her biggest and most public breakdown – and her friend who kept telling her to just "perk up" during her darkest hours.
"I used to need 4,000 people looking at me, now I'm down to 200," she said at one point to the cosy Waterfront Studio audience – and you can see how the American comedian might have unwittingly written herself a decent nightly dose of clinical catharsis with this disarmingly frank and funny show.
Performance as therapy isn't anything new, but with Out Of Her Mind, Ruby Wax allowed us all on to the couch with her, as the final Q&A wrung as many laughs as revelations.
"None of us are ready for life in the 21st century," she concluded.
"It's too hard, too fast and too full of fear."
Thank goodness, then, for shows like this which offer us a chance to stop the world and get off, if only for just an hour or two.