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Rachel Parris: Keynote review

| Comedy, Music | 30/08/2017


Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Parris delivers an upbeat message for the next generation, showcasing her recent development as a stand-up.

Over the past twelve months, Rachel Parris has started to tap into the sort of success her abilities warrant.  This has come at a price: an ominous invitation to deliver a motivational speech at her alma mater, Loughborough High School, in September.  The self-deprecating comedian, musician and actress is concerned she will have nothing of value to say to these “500 teenage girls with the education of princesses, but with the gritty realism of the East Midlands”, so uses Keynote to air what she’d like to share with the next generation and garner other ideas from her audience.

These themes – how to follow your dreams, find love, have passions and deal with fear – provide handy stepping off points for Parris to embark on an ambitious mix of musical comedy, stand-up and – in a return to her 2014 show, Live in Vegas – character comedy.  This time though, the songs aren’t the main event.  That’s partly because they don’t quite hit the highs of last year’s Hen Do or Gym Song, despite the amusing You Got This and well-observed, choreographed pastiche of militaristic feminist music videos in Army of Women.

It’s also because recent filming opportunities – including a major role in BBC Two’s The Mash Report – have led Parris to focus on joke and story telling.  As a result, her delivery style has become noticeably slicker and more assured.  In places, the lines are razor-sharp (especially the excellent put-downs of Jim Carrey and Tom Jones) and some of the tales – especially her awkward online dating escapades – make for great entertainment.

However, with her recent success, Parris seems to have lost some of the vulnerability which helped make last year’s Best Laid Plans – in which she discussed turning to the Samaritans after a painful breakup – so relatable.  Talented and attractive, Parris is at her funniest when playing the victim – best seen here when revealing the hurtful things her mother has said about her career (“Your brother’s the funny one”) and uncertain prospects of getting married, and in her perfectly-pitched betrayed mother-of-the-bride speech (“She’s a princess in her father’s eyes, although I’m sure we all wish him blind”).  The laughter tails off a little at other points and Parris fails to quite hit the right key during some of the character pieces (notably, the Oscar acceptance and dawn of battle speeches).

Overall, Keynote delivers a pleasingly upbeat message that should be well-received in Loughborough next month – although what Parris does with the show after that remains uncertain.  She’s had another successful Fringe, with strong showings in Austentatious and Amusical, and remains ‘one to watch’ as further opportunities come her way.

Rachel Parris performed ‘Keynote’ at the Edinburgh Fringe during August at Pleasance Dome.  See Rachel’s official website or follow her on Twitter @rachelparris for details of her next London shows, including ‘There Will Be Cake’ – an exciting improv set with, amongst others, Marcus Brigstocke – being performed at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre between 26th and 30th September (tickets here).

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