Ruby Wax is back at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe once again with a new show on mental health,
Her honest approach to a difficult subject makes her authenticity difficult to criticise.
While there are many solo shows on mental health at the Fringe, Wax’s master’s degree in neuroscience and her decades of experience set the show apart from the rest. It is fascinating to learn about how the human brain works in comparison to other animals, along with useful information about how different chemicals are released during different human experiences. Wax knows what she is talking about.
She has a natural performance style with the audience when she slightly goes off script; these are the best moments. Unfortunately when these moments are juxtaposed against the very rehearsed jokes the differences in her style can come off as slightly jarring.
Nevertheless, her ability to joke openly and directly about mental health is in some ways very refreshing. The topic is something which many people are too scared to talk about for fear of getting it wrong and saying something offensive. Wax is direct and blunt but her style can make the entire performance seem slightly more gentle. Her first-hand experience provides her a level of justification for some of the less palatable language which she uses. In some ways this helps to reduce stigma, which is fantastic.
Wax is very easy to watch and stays in quite non-controversial territory, despite the odd crude scenario. It is very difficult to have strong feelings either way about this performance – Wax has the audience eating from the palm of her hand with very little effort, and her honest approach to a difficult subject makes her authenticity difficult to criticise. Yet at times it feels too safe, which is unnecessary for such a confident performer.