Review: Ruby Wax ‘How To Be Human’, Leicester Square Theatre
“Ruby Wax asserts herself again as one of the top names and writers in British entertainment”
Ruby Wax’s new show, ‘How To Be Human’, playing at the Leicester Square Theatre until the 15th June, is based on her new book of the same title. As much a Ted Talk as it is excellent stand-up, this is comedy for the post-Hannah Gadsby era, where she confronts themes including evolution theory; to her own struggles with mental health and depression; to what shade of beige you should paint your sitting-room walls. (Elephant Breath, for those playing at home.)
The first act of the performance is a one-on one between Wax and the audience, where without the aid of a PowerPoint (though she does keep the clicker), she weaves her way through evolution, addictions, relationships and more. She speaks on these grand topics with the purpose afforded to her by her recent Master’s in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from Oxford University. Her knowledge and personal history with mental health gives the show relatability and heart.
This is never a ‘lecture-like’ experience for the audience, as Wax is able to combine the facts with quick quips, cheeky asides and antidotes. She carries herself on stage with an assurance a performer can only gain from years at the top of their field.
That isn’t to say this concept is fool-proof however. Look at Ricky Gervais’ show ‘Animals’ where he uses similar themes of evolution etc. to punch out at those who take Religion and Faith over scientific theory. Whilst Gervais in that show remained satisfied with the sound and fury, as long as it furthered his point, Wax takes things a necessary step further and makes us ask ourselves: ‘Why?’
In the second act, Wax is joined onstage by a Buddhist monk and a Neuroscientist… This isn’t an extravagant set-up for a joke. Collaborators and co-authors Gelong Thubten and Ash Ranpura assist Wax in delving deeper into the analysis of the mind. Discussing both the inside-out and the outside-in; as to how we can rewrite our thought patterns through mindfulness to better suit modern living and the stresses that come with it.
The glue that holds this whole operation together is the warmth Wax brings with her onstage. The connection she forms with the audience in the first half carries through and she never allows proceedings to become too cold and scientific. A credit to her ability to steer the ship and read the room. She asks at one point:
“Who writes the script for our thoughts, and why are they so mean?”
The show serves as a reminder to ‘check yourself, before you wreck yourself’. And at the end of the day the answer lies in compassion; both to ourselves and to each other. This was an incredibly refreshing night at the theatre – comedy with a purpose. With ‘How to be Human’, Ruby Wax asserts herself again as one of the top names and writers in British entertainment.
Ruby Waz ‘How To Be Human’ is running until 15th June 2019. You can purchase tickets to the show here
Words: Bridget Sweeney