Ruby Wax is 'Losing it' at the Edinburgh Fringe
- 17 August 2011
- From the section Scotland
Ruby Wax is mentally ill.
"But at least I got a show out of it," she tells the audience with her trademark glibness.
Losing it, playing at the Underbelly during the Edinburgh Fringe, is Wax's examination of her own breakdown and her thoughts on what led her to it.
The 58-year-old maintains the hyperactive, self-centred, wisecracking persona which she developed over three decades in the spotlight but there is also a more honest and vulnerable Wax telling a personal story.
Wax shares the details of her own clinical depression and her trips to the Priory and confronts the stigma and shame of mental illness.
"The show is comedy," she says.
"It is hilarious. I don't talk about raising awareness but at one point I see the audience start nodding their heads and they are saying 'I got that too'.
"But you don't have to be mentally ill to get what I'm talking about."
"I have always been interested in psychology," Wax says.
She studied the subject at the University of California at Berkeley before running away to Glasgow to study acting.
"Acting became a job and I always said 'at some time I am going to go back and study this'."
She is currently studying for a Masters degree in "mindfulness-based cognitive therapy" at Oxford.
Wax says that understanding the way the brain functions takes the fear away.
"It is like finding out you are not possessed by the devil," she says.
During the show, she delivers a cod-lecture on the science of the brain.
Careful not to be too serious, she steers away from neuroscience but her message is clear.
"Mental illness is a disease like diabetes, it cannot just be wished away."
Wax has been performing the show, alongside her friend Judith Owen, for more than a year in hospitals and psychiatric units.
She says performing in psychiatric hospitals is the "biggest thrill" but she wants to reach out to the "lost tribe" of sufferers and carers.
'Got it made'
"My people," as she calls them.
Wax and Owen, who plays piano and sings snatches of songs which try to encapsulate the feelings the comedian is describing, will take the show to London's West End after its Edinburgh run.
Wherever they go they hold forums which discuss mental health issues such as the effectiveness of drugs and also seek to put people in touch with help and support.
Later in the year, Wax will unveil a website called blackdogtribe.com.
Wax says the website will have chat rooms and it will be very visual because much of the mental health literature can be very hard to read.
She hopes it will create a mental health brand which is something like Alcoholic Anonymous, where people form a network of support for each other.
"Those alcoholics have got it made," she quips.
"One in four of us is nuts, we should be able to arrange something."