LitFest Review: Rachel Parris

When I say that Rachel Parris was utterly charming, it’s not charming (as Parris herself would claim) in the way that Kirsty Allsop would describe a £530 pcm tool shed in Bethnal Green. I mean charming in the truest sense of the world, where a performer’s grace, humour and affability force a smile onto the hardest visage with the most underused facial muscles. This was the atmosphere on Friday 16th October, as Parris unleashed her solo show of comedy, music and improvisation, entitled Best Laid Plains, as part of the Chester Literature Festival.

The premise is simple, and begins with the question “What did you want to be when you grew up?”. As adults, we look back on the unrealistic expectations we have throughout our young lives, and Parris explores this theme with a candid look at her own experiences, through piano lessons, living as a starving artist and of course, sex. The latter was an especially large theme of the evening’s routine, but delivered with Parris’s sweetly awkward voice and fidgety mannerisms, the taboo topic of the female orgasm becomes hilariously endearing.

Whilst I usually prickle at any comedienne who calls themselves a feminist, Parris delivers pro-female humour that’s self-deprecating and humming with hilarious pathos. Her show was perfectly balanced, and it was a delight to see an authentic female comedian who can cater to both genders without resorting to cheap man-hating shots, but who I feel also accurately represents contemporary women’s views.

As well as her excellent stand-up stints, there’s also Parris’s musical talent to discuss. Her piano songs were reminiscent of the slick Broadway-style humour of the likes of Avenue Q, dealing with comical real world situations such as ‘Hen Do on a Train’: the commuter’s worst nightmare. Indeed, her faux-risque Rihanna-inspired RnB song ‘Ankles’ will be stuck in my head for days to come, and it was hilarious to be part of the joke as we sung along in the crowd. Parris’s finale was an improvised song with the audience’s childhood aspirations included, a heartwarming interactive touch in which I was proud to put my former notion of being a paleontologist to use at last.

In short, if you have the opportunity to go and see Rachel Parris perform, do it. Don’t miss out on this fresh and uniquely talented lady who’ll make you chortle ’til it hurts.

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