MICF review: Ruby Wax, Frazzled

Throttled a tad by an awkward structure, Ruby Wax nonetheless shines bright. A smart look at practical ways to deal with an overloaded mind.

British-based American comic Ruby Wax is a comedy legend who has earned her stripes over decades of stand-up and TV appearances as well as a script editing gig on Ab Fab. Adding to her many stripes, she now has a masters degree in cognitive therapy from Oxford University too, this despite flunking her SATs many moons ago. You get the sense that once Wax sets her mind on any goal, it’s an inevitability, especially if a snooty academic refuses to help.

Growing up in the UK, Wax was a seminal part of my youth, beaming her brassy smarts into living rooms across the land and an early hero of mine. As time has passed, she, alongside the likes of Stephen Fry, has become something of a spokesperson for living with mental ill health. So much so that she found herself somewhat horrified by her appearance on a poster campaign plastered across the London tube, as detailed in her Melbourne International Comedy Festival headliner at the Arts Centre, Frazzled.

Candid about her experience with depression, like everything else Wax has faced down, including an odious Donald Trump (she laughed at hi claim he would be President one day) Wax has approached it practically. Based loosely on the outrageously funny and also extremely practical guidebook of the same name, which you can grab and get signed after the gig, Frazzled doesn’t translate quite so well to the stage, presented in an awkward self-interview style that throttles some of Wax’ natural wit, occasionally feeling a little unfocused.

Breaks in which she encourages the audience to join her practicing mindfulness techniques while sitting in an auditorium containing hundreds of souls feels a bit odd too, while also breaking the flow of the show though finding yourself amidst the hubbub is probably part of the point

Wax has always been unwilling to stick to formulas and is to be commended for taking a chance on a very different format here, and one with an important message too. When she does cut loose form the structural chains, most notably with a mercenary recurring joke about her mother’s mad broom obsession and an excruciating diner party with Professor Brian Cox, the audience lights u p with laughter. The honesty of self-doubt burns brightest.

You’ll leave with food for mindful thought and practical tips for controlling your cortisol levels too.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords

★★★

Book tickets to see Ruby Wax’ Frazzled at MICF here.