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Rachel Parris: Best Laid Plans review

| Comedy, Festivals, Music | 21/08/2016


Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Parris neatly combines her warm brand of self-deprecating stand-up with expertly performed and hilarious songs in Best Laid Plans.

Before seeing Best Laid Plans, I knew Rachel Parris mainly as a musical comedian, standing at the piano belting out funny songs with the powerful voice of a West End star.  So I was intrigued when she said this show would lean more towards stand-up.  Could Parris perform 35+ minutes of compelling spoken comedy without diluting her main strength?  The answer – thankfully – is yes, as she delivers an extremely entertaining and versatile performance.

Parris’ musical talent and warm, confiding style bring to mind the late Victoria Wood.  However, it’s an imperfect comparison due to Parris’ more vulnerable stage presence.  That vulnerability’s part natural, part necessary given the theme of the show: a breakup leaving her so low that she contacted the Samaritans – by email – for help.  It made her question why she hadn’t attained the things she’d expected by now: a husband, kids, a house and a car.

“I wasn’t suicidal,” Parris says.  “Just really disappointed.  Like you are by the sight of Harvey Keitel doing car insurance adverts.  Or by the idea of Rylan.”

That leads on to a well-crafted critique of being unattached in your early 30s, switching between self-deprecating stand-up, readings from exaggerated emails with ‘Samaritan Jo’ and perfectly performed songs blending Broadway with wordplay (although the movement from one to the other could have occasionally been more composed).

The show is based on the premise that reality hasn’t met expectations, but it avoids being self-pitying.  Delivered with the candid humour of a close friend, Parris confides that weddings are awful when you’re expected to perform music for free or sit at the children’s table “because you have the long, yellow hair of an insipid Disney princess”; that the children she teaches music to are actually “really shit”; and that sex was pretty disappointing for a fair while at first.  “I just thought it would be a bit more matt,” she explains.

The Samaritans emails lead to more laughs, while subtly underlining the important function the ‘listening service’ still plays.  And Parris’ musical output remains as enjoyable as ever with her best songs – Hen DoThe Gym Song and a provocative Beyoncé homage – nicely supplemented by several new tunes.

Rachel Parris is performing at 18.50 until 28th August at Pleasance Dome.  Get tickets here.

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