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Ruby Wax – Losing It

Published 2 September 2011

If I’m honest, historically, I’ve not been a Ruby Wax fan. I’ve never felt comfortable with her comedy. Losing It might just have changed that.

The brash, brutal, boundary-bounding comedian is still there making gags about powerful pelvic floors and disappearing thongs, but there is an honest and open depth of feeling behind these crude crudités.

More engaging than the comedy is the powerful sadness and anger that radiates from Wax as she explores the subjects of modern life and mental health, punctuated by short musical interludes from put-upon sidekick Judith Owen.

Yes, she has a comic kick at men, her mother, celebrities, but the laid-bare emotion behind it is electrifyingly compelling. We’ve all heard jokes about schoolyard bullies or troubled childhoods; the reality of the situation is more painful than ever in Wax’s hands. The whole biographical evening has a real ‘tears of a clown’ feel.

Much of the credit must go to director Thea Sharrock, who has worked with Wax and Owen to shape proceedings. Instead of one comedian talking for an hour, the show hits peaks and troughs, Wax building to mini climaxes before disappearing into the shadows while Owen offers a reflective sung line or two.

While Wax takes centre stage, exploring her depression, its origins, the way modern life exacerbates it and how she has treated it, Owen provides straight-faced support, becoming the butt or sounding board for many a gag, and keeping Wax on track.

That both performers suffer from depression and are talking from a place of emotional truth and personal knowledge makes the whole evening deeply emotive.

There may be more laughter, in fact, in the second act, where, scripted set done and dusted, they take questions from the audience, allowing space for quick fire banter. But it is the first act that lingers long in the mind, both with a smile and an urge to understand more about the mental illnesses that debilitate one in four of us.

MA

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