Reviewed by Jane Hopkins MBE
We all know Ruby Wax; that supercharged high energy American comedienne who used to be on the TV all the time a few years ago. If you’re used to the previous work of Ruby Wax, you’ll be surprised by what you get on this tour.
Part of me wants to say nothing other than just go see it, just book tickets and get yourself to a theatre near you. Whoever you are, whatever you do in life, there will be a thought provoking message for you in this show. But the other part of me wants to tell you everything because it was simply so compelling!
The first part of the show, named “Sane New World” is a reminder of Ruby’s life, that she was on TV for 25 years, that she’s suffered with depression since she was 16, that’s she’s struggled more than most. And in the years since her departure from TV, she has been studying neuroscience to work out just how we humans tick, and just what goes on in our brains. She has even graduated with a Masters in Mindfulness. And if ever there was a user manual for the brain then this is the perfect introduction, and I suspect the book I bought (and had signed by Ruby) will be the perfect accompaniment. So far so good – I’m on the second chapter!
I’m not entirely sure how to describe her show, you could call it a comedy, but it’s really more a self-help discovery, but it is funny too. But with all seminars, workshops, presentations (and books) about neuroscience or psychology, this is different because it’s written by someone who is clearly speaking from the heart. And because we know her so well in another role, she’s very brave too, to show us inside her mind and share with us her own insecurities and challenges, of which there have been many.
She talks of stress being the biggest killer of the future and how our brains are overloaded with so much information on a daily basis, that without realising, we are all in a constant state of alert which keeps our serotonin (fight or flight chemical) levels high which leads to increased stress because our bodies simply can’t cope.
She gives examples and uses super graphics to explain it all and it makes incredible, relatable sense. She explained how the mind works, rather like a mechanic opening up a car engine to describe its inner workings, and how the brain is simply an organ just like the liver or kidneys and that when faced with various challenges, just like our other organs, it can cause serious disturbances in our lives if not taken care of properly. These disturbances can make people behave strangely, (think of depression) but that there are things we can do to counter this, think of it as an engine coolant for our brains.
She showed that we can all learn to retrain our minds, using a remedy called Mindfulness and that is what the show is all about; where negativity comes from is from years of destructive habit forming. But by learning something new we can create new more effective habits.
The second half of the show was a Q&A, sat on her Pilates ball, sipping tea with honey, she invited the audience to ask her questions about what she’d spoken about. From the questions asked it was clear she had resonated with the audience, from a mum of two asking about juggling life, to a mental health professional congratulating her work. We were all touched by what Ruby had to say, but for different reasons, but then we all lead different lives so it would translate as different meanings to each of us. Where one person may be the sufferer of depression, another may know a sufferer and after listening to Ruby, will have knowledge to deal with the sufferers behaviour but also, there are the many other people who lie somewhere in between – the ones who don’t realise just how much the stresses of day to day life is effecting them, and their behaviour. Hence the reason why my introduction said ‘just go see it’. The bottom line message she put across so well was relevant to all types of people and walks of life. She said no matter if you’re the richest most powerful person in the world you will have stress. But I wonder how many of those people, truly know how to deal with that stress.
Leaving the theatre, I felt like I had been given new weapons to use against that thing we call life, thanks to Ruby I now have a simple technique to use when feeling stressed at a situation I can’t control. I understand more about moods and how to control feelings to help me live a more sane life. I know now that it’s all down to chemicals in our heads and if we understand the behaviour that it can cause in both ourselves and others, we can understand and change the way we react for the best outcome.
I can honestly say I’ve rarely been so inspired by a show. Ruby is inquisitive, observational, honest, knowledgeable and simply extraordinary. She is more than well researched, she has learnt the facts and become and expert, and in her own unmistakeable manner she is able to illustrate a fascinating and poignant message to her audience. I’ve always rated her highly as a comedienne but even more so as a neuroscientist! And I may even go see her again, once I’ve finished the book.The secret to happiness really does lie within ourselves, if we only can learn to tame our minds.
Ruby Wax, Sane New World is touring the UK until 22 May 2014, for more information, tour dates or to book tickets at a venue near you visit www.rubywax.net/sane-new-world-tour.html.
For other shows at Birmingham Town Hall visit www.thsh.co.uk.