Ruby Wax: The Liverpool Playhouse
Ruby Wax brought her one-woman show, Frazzled: A Guide To Mindfulness – A Forum For Discussion, to The Liverpool Playhouse. Gary Dougherty was there to report for Planet Slop.
The evening starts by being handed a mysterious fragranced card; “It’s part of the evening’s show” we are assured.
Individually, the cards aren’t too potent, but with a room full of them being clasped by warm hands the scent is overpowering. A heady mix of floral scents tinged with lavender. It’s like being in a handbag at a Women’s Institute meeting. Thankfully the odour diminishes, or maybe it just drifted upwards and the people in the dress circle and the gallery were left to quietly asphyxiate.
Whilst still contemplating the aroma of the card we are asked to take our seats and almost as soon as the mostly middle aged crowd have settled, Ruby comes on stage. She is dressed casually in jeans and a red jacket; an appropriate mix of loud American and understated British.
The set, if you can call it that, is just a chair, a side table and a large red mat. I’m hoping she can fill the space; I’m not disappointed.
Ruby opens by asking who had seen her previous show on mindfulness. After a few muted murmurs from the audience she decides four of us have seen it and so proceeds to tell us all about it.
Ruby regales us with her history of mental illness; the range of treatments she had; and of the occasionally patronising attitude of some of her doctors or therapists.
Taking such attitudes as a challenge, and just to make sure she isn’t being ripped off, Ruby has since gained a Masters Degree in mindfulness based cognitive therapy. So she is well qualified to talk on the subject.
Now if like me your a bit of a cynic, you might be thinking that all this mindfulness malarkey is just a load of psychobabble. Perhaps it is when handled by those less qualified as patient or therapist. With Ruby, it makes more sense and I can feel my mind opening. That the performance-come-therapy routine was honed in the very mental hospitals Ruby was once a patient at could also be a contributing factor.
With the introduction over, Ruby gets on with the show proper.
It runs as an interview with herself (a technique I can hopefully try should a promotion opportunity arise). Though these questions and a series of exercises, one of which involved the mysterious scented card, we are taught all about mindfulness and how it can help us cope with our daily woes.
Now of course, if this was all we came for we would have gone to a ‘proper’ mindfulness course. But this is a Ruby Wax gig and we are expecting some laughs.
So interspersed with the educational material is a series of anecdotes on life in a mental hospital; the ‘find your farmyard animal partner whilst blindfolded therapy game‘ (and no I didn’t understand how it would help either); the mad antics of Ruby’s mother and her obsession with the right kind of broom and having the TV parallel to the wall; the source of her fathers grumpiness; that if you stand next to Melania Trump you can apparently hear the ocean; and rather randomly the gestural language of the Hawaiians. All of this is delivered in Ruby’s trademark style while she flits in and out of the solitary chair.
After all the laughing we are glad of a short interval and return refreshed for the question and answer session. Ruby shares her thoughts on the issues raised – which included nature versus nurture, why are we mentally ill, and the value of early training so we don’t screw up our kids.
Ruby also manages to finally find her farmyard partner, the chicken. Turned out he was in the gallery all along. The show ends with Ruby performing a Hawaiian dance, complete with grass skirt. Why? I don’t know, but it was funny and she clearly enjoyed it, so why not?
Ruby is taking the show around the country with further dates in Crewe, Warrington and Blackpool in June and July. Details of the remaining shows are available on the her website.