Ruby Wax is a depressive who cheers you up a little bit in her new solo show, Losing It, in which there’s another depressive - songwriter Judith Owen - seated at a baby grand electric piano.
I suppose it’s the same as two negatives almost making a positive, but not quite: this is not an “acting” performance - it’s a searingly honest account of what happened. And it’s all part of the new “out” campaign for mental illness, which now has its day in the sun, Wax says, after witchcraft, homosexuality and cancer.
Wax and Owen have been performing the show in NHS centres and expensive rehab hospitals for over a year. Good for them. But it seems an odd choice for the Menier, even with Thea Sharrock directing so discreetly you can’t see what she’s done, and the best bits are those when Wax relaxes in Joan Rivers mode, beating herself up over her family and social entrapment with middle-class English mummies comparing their frocks, or English relatives re-enacting World War Two at Christmastime. She can be cuttingly hilarious.
Her grandmother is so old, she opens the fridge when the doorbell rings: “Head of lettuce, no message.” Women with nose jobs face their own nostrils: they sneeze and they get an eyeful. She wants to break the genetic mould, so she marries a tall man: enough of those Jews, already, hobbling from country to country with pianos on their backs.
But there’s not enough of this. Wax wants more desperately to tell us about her marriage, her struggle with celebrity, her nervous breakdown at her child’s sports day. For myself, I’m not interested in these things unless they’re funny. And it is at least slightly funny when she attacks a copy of Hello! magazine like an incensed dervish, ripping out the pages with hateful remarks.
This goes on for 75 minutes, with Owen doodling at the keyboard and singing one or two songs that are the opposite of upbeat. After an interval, when we grab a drink or slash our wrists, there’s a Q and A session that turns into a therapy seminar, all very well in its place, but not in a theatre, thank you.