Comedy review: Ruby Wax at the Playhouse

Words: Ian C Douglas
Thursday 30 May 2024
reading time: min, words

I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was, is the name of Ruby Wax's new tour. So what exactly ails her and is there a cure?

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Where to start with Ruby Wax? Wikipedia tells us and I quote “Ruby Wax OBE is a British-American actress, comedian, writer, television personality, and mental health campaigner.”

Or we might say she is one of the comedy powerhouses behind the scripts for Absolutely Fabulous. Perhaps an even better description is that, over many years, she has carved a niche for herself in our cultural zeitgeist as a voice that can be both comical and meaningful.

In any case, she is a much-loved talent with a strong following. This was evident at the Playhouse last night, when a large cohort of local fans turned out to support her.

Ruby has a new book out, so the tour is to promote and celebrate that. The title is I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was. A classic Ruby-ism. And the show dramatized the writings therein. As Ruby said in the intro: in this show she is doing acting rather than stand-up. The stage set consisted of a cream-coloured armchair, a table that doubled as a bed and the odd prop. Ruby was resplendent in her multi-coloured pyjamas and fluffy slippers. Voiceovers and sound effects added to her performance. But what was it all about? 

she punctuates the joking around with real world references

Ruby Wax mines a seam of life that runs through mental health, mindfulness, meditation. She champions these issues while remaining down-to-earth enough to satirize the more absurd elements of the modern well being industry. For example, her impressions of German whale song singers, no one could keep a straight face through that routine. Also, her diarylike recounting of stays in mental hospitals, monasteries, and Buddhist retreats. Whacky anecdotes all of which, she swears to the audience, are true. Twinges of hypochondria, self-obsession and yet also a scarred childhood are all there.

But just in case anyone thought this was simply obsessing about the lives of middle-class Londoners, wrapped up in their own minor dilemmas, she punctuates the joking around with real world references to Afghanistan and Syria, as well as her husband’s prostate cancer. The word trauma crops up, an ‘Oprah word’ as Ruby terms it. But she is reluctant to use it for her own psychological ailments. Ruby is grounded. She’s got perspective. She tells it like it is.

The first half jogged along for over and hour and ended with Ruby parading the stage while waving a huge Union Jack. To loud cheering, by the way. And then after the break, she reconvened the audience for a Q&A.

All in all, a successful night. Ruby is trying to make sense of our world. And while doing so, she takes the audience along for the ride. A ride that makes you laugh and then makes you think.

Ruby Wax’s I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was played at the Nottingham Playhouse on May 29th 2024.

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