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Ruby's loss is audience gain

Ruby Wax

Losing it

Lichfield Garrick

****

EXPECTING a night of belly laughs and stand-up? Think again. This is Ruby Wax laid bare - up close and personal. 

There is still the acerbic wit with the likes of Madonna and Angelina Jolie (renting African children) among the targets, indeed the whole cult of fame and celebrity come in for a panning.

Finding it again: Ruby Wax (front) and Judith Owen bring humour and thought to bear on madness

The pursuit of fame, the need to be famous just for the sake of being famous gets a hit as do the wealthy who do nothing but be wealthy. The set who have lunch from the back of the Rand Rover in the car park - at the school sports day.

But mostly this is about Ruby Wax and her manic depression. We now call it bipolar disorder, she calls it losing it.

Wax was diagnosed 16 years ago when she had her third child, Marina, and has had three stretches in The Priory but it took until last year before the idea of a show about her illness germinated. 

WORLD OF MADNESS

The result is a show that starts with comedy and stand-up with the usual Wax grenades lobbed into the  foibles and failings of society but slowly the evening drifts into the world of madness. 

There are still plenty of laughs but they come like a glance through a window in a darkened room as the audience are given a glimpse of what the world of a manic depressive is like. The show has moved from comedy club to theatre, from stand-up to monologue.

It is easy to forget that Wax is a classically trained actress or that she has a degree in psychology. She also qualified as a psychotherapist a couple of years ago. Put that all together with her losing it and you have the elements of what is a powerful performance.  

With the superb Wax is the brilliant Welsh singer-songwriter Judith Owen who has had her own battles with depression. There are times when Wax rambles manically about trivia almost drowned by song, there are conversations with Owen singing and Wax talking. Then at times she puts into song Wax's thoughts in what at times is a moving performance. 

Owen is worth a look at on her own. She lives in California where she is married to Harry Shearer, of Spinal Tap fame. She has been compared to Joni Mitchell and I would throw Sarah McLachlan into the mix as well. Lovely voice and an easy style for jazz and ballads.

Between them Wax and Owen produce a memorable evening. Plenty of laughs but there is a price to be paid. No one escapes untouched. As Wax says there is no manual to life, you have to learn it as you go along. She produces a thought provoking lesson.

Roger Clarke 

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