Ruby Wax: Frazzled

King's Hall, Ilkley

EVERY seat in the King's Hall auditorium is full, and everyone sitting in them is trying to focus on their feet.

The focus shifts to our seated position, then on listening to the silence, then we're told to focus solely on five deep breaths; inhaling then exhaling as if we're each a deflating balloon.

I find my attention wandering slightly, but we're told that's perfectly normal. "Just bring it back", says the voice on the stage.

This is mindfulness - and the voice on the stage belongs to Ruby Wax.

Ruby's show, Frazzled, explores the science, practice and power of finding stillness in the chaos of modern life. "No-one died of stress 500 years ago. We invented it, and we let it rule our lives," says Ruby, who set about showing us how to de-frazzle by allowing ourselves time to focus on the moment.

The comic and writer's own experience of depression is well documented, and her interest in how we deal with mental illness led her to take a Master's degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy from Oxford University.

Described in her promotional blurb as the 'It girl' of mental health campaigning, Ruby makes no bones about the complexities of mental illness, while retaining her sense of humour, honesty and an endearing warmth.

Taking the format of an interview with herself, her show in Ilkley last night was a funny, thought-provoking insight into her own experiences of crippling bouts of depression, and how she trained herself to cope.

Along the way we learned about her frazzled mother, a woman obsessed with finding the right broom, and cleaning the floor in a clockwise direction, and Ruby's own experiences as a parent. She shared a cringe-worthy encounter with Professor Brian Cox, which left her so tongue-tied she could barely speak, and a hilarious account of how, at the height of her battle with mental illness, she "said yes to everything" - ending up at a charity event she was bemused to discover was aimed at helping windswept puffins to land on the right rocks.

The second half of the show gave the audience chance to ask Ruby questions, leading one woman to reveal her own struggle with depression. Ruby handled the Q&A with professionalism, a no-nonsense approach to dealing with depression, and her razor-sharp wit.

"Mindfulness isn't for everyone," she said. "But it worked for me."