Talking virtually non-stop for over an hour and a half with five props and three audio clips is difficult. Ruby Wax makes it seem effortless despite her serious subject matter, her mental health.
I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was
The show entitled ‘I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was’ came to my hometown of Birmingham on the 23rd of September 2023 at the Alexandra Theatre.
An office chair, a desk and a stool were lit up on stage under harsh white light. Ruby vaulted on stage wearing Pajamas, saying she had “dressed up for Birmingham,” rude, probably true for some areas. This was the first laugh of what turned out to be an entertaining, if thought-provoking, night.
A sound like a drill cutting through pavement was repeatedly played throughout the show. The audience soon learned that this was the sound of Ruby’s treatment while she was in a psychiatric unit. She was there for six weeks. It is this stay in a mental institution that her show revolves around. Weaved into the story were anecdotes of what she was doing before she was admitted and what led up to it. She said the transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment “feels like Woody Woodpecker and his cartoon pals are gang-banging in my head”. It’s a funny analogy until your brain catches up with you and thinks about how horrific that must be!
Ruby describes her depression, “Your thoughts attack like little demons biting chunks of your brain. It’s hard to stay alive and listen.” As a person with anxiety, I think this is a very apt description. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced mental illness to the degree that Ruby has, but I can relate in my own small way. I enjoy how she uses humour to educate and entertain people; this show did not disappoint.
Not only did she describe her illness, but she also talked about her stay at a monastery, where talking wasn’t allowed. A gong was used to signal the start and end of activities, and the show used the sound of a gong very effectively in the storytelling. I love the way she describes people.
Whether you can identify with her or remember her from TV, there is something for everyone in this witty retelling of a difficult time in Ruby’s life. For those wondering, the other two props were her MacBook and iPhone, together with the final audio, a text alert sound. At least she had good phone service in her locked room.