Friday, 5 September 2014

Ruby Wax - Sane New World

SHE may have had a reputation during her long, varied and entertaining career for being brash and ballsy with a rapier wit but these days Ruby Wax comes across as more thoughtful and serious, although the humour is definitely still there.
In fact it is very much in evidence when we chat ahead of her appearance at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley to which she will be bringing her one woman show Sane New World on September 21.
"I was just on holiday," she begins. "I was in Africa and went on safari which was lovely.
"It was a lot of fun - in fact I was dragged back kicking and screaming," she adds laughing.
And then without taking a breath she tells me all about the show which she has been touring around the country for the past few months.
Sane New World is her unique look at the brain and is based on her critically acclaimed and number one bestseller book of the same name which has been described as a manual on how to survive the 21st century.
In both the book and the show Ruby looks at the human brain, how it works, how we can rewire our thinking to find calm in an increasingly frenetic world and how to become the master not the slave of our own minds.
It all sounds pretty deep and a real change from her career to date in which she spent most of her time making us laugh.
Although she was trained originally as a classical actress, it was with comedy that her career took off and she became a successful stand up and writer, including script editing the multi award winning BBC TV series Absolutely Fabulous.
This led to a hugely successful stint as an interviewer and during the 1980s and 90s she was rarely off our TV screens, fronting shows such as The Full Wax, Ruby Wax Meets…., and Wax On Wheels.
She was famed for her acerbic wit, humour and sharp shooting, straight from the hip interview style.
Her famous and unsuspecting interviewees were putty in her hand thanks to her fearless style where no question was off limits.
Her encounters were legendary - who could forget for instance her hilarious meetings with Imelda Marcos and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson?
But it was while she was promoting the charity Comic Relief that her battles with depression came out and she unwittingly became the poster girl and then campaigner for mental health and which subsequently led to her career change.
Five years ago she did a Master’s degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy at Oxford University and hasn't looked back.
"It was really interesting," she says. "It wasn't about depression and the point of doing it wasn't to understand depression.
"I was just fascinated by the whole subject of mindfulness and I had a chance to do it and I jumped at it.
"It was two years work and for me it has been the greatest, most interesting and satisfying thing I have ever done. Ever."
The content of both the degree and the book have formed the basis for the show which she says audiences have been "very warm" about.
"I love it," she enthuses. "I do a book signing after each one and people will come up to me and talk about their own experiences and give feedback on what I've said. It's lovely."
And she insists far from being dry, the show is laced with her own inimitable brand of comedy.
"Oh it's definitely funny - I'm hilarious!" she chuckles. "It would be very dull if it wasn't. I don't preach at people, and I don't have anecdotes but there is a lot of humour in it. I couldn't do it otherwise.
"Besides, what could be more interesting than how your mind works? What’s going on upstairs? It's fascinating and I love it."
So infectiously enthusiastic is she of her subject that she chatters 10 to the dozen barely pausing for breath.
"It's about giving information," she says. "Everyone wants to know how and why their mind works. So I give a tour of the brain - what to do with it, what's going on, why we're screwed and why we have these critical voices.
"We are driven by this idea that we are never good enough. We are not at our best when we are knocking ourselves out with our own thinking and pushing ourselves."
And she says technology hasn't helped.
"Basically, we are not equipped for this century," she says. "It’s too hard, too fast, and too full of fear. We just don’t have the bandwidth so I talk about how we're burning out and why stress is such a killer.
"Our brains can’t take so much information in a world where we’re bombarded by bad news and force-fed information. I can just about take in the weather then I’m exhausted. You open a newspaper, everyone’s dead.
"The news is heightening levels of fear. Now we can't tell if danger is behind us and what the fear is.
"I am not saying technology is bad because who's not happy to do on line shopping in the morning but we need to take a step back and unplug.
"We have to understand why we are in this state, where our brain is and find the tipping point and not constantly try and keep up with the next guy."
Mindfulness she adds has given her a practical way to self-regulate her feelings.
"I can hear early the tip toes before I go under but sometimes it does take me by surprise," she admits. "Back in the day I just got busy and then ended up doing more work and more dinner parties.
"Now I can tell a little bit when I need to watch it. But when you are in that state you think something must be wrong with you.
"I want people to leave knowing a bit more about what goes on upstairs but also that they have laughed about it.
"People have told me that the book was life changing - so buy it and come to the show. It'll be great and you'll love it!"

Ruby Wax will be performing Sane New World at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre on September 21. Visit for full listings.

Sane New World: Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax is published in paperback by Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99.

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