Rachel Parris: Best Laid Plans on NextUp | Review by Steve Bennett

Rachel Parris: Best Laid Plans on NextUp

Note: This review is from 2017

Review by Steve Bennett

Best Laid Plans is a breakup show, but not quite in the way you might expect. 

After the collapse of a relationship, Rachel Parris was struck by the realisation that she was going into her 30s without hitting the milestones she once would have expected: the house, the husband, the two kids and the car in the driveway.

As a premise, such an expectation gap is almost boilerplate for any comedian moving out of their youth with no security, stability nor responsibilities. Yet after something of a slow start establishing this, Parris moves into more substantial, more rewarding territory, albeit at some personal cost.

For the breakup made the usually perky and stoical Parris, ‘upbeat to the point of annoying’ depressed, to the point that she approached the Samaritans. But she wasn’t suicidal, as she was quick to explain in her email to jo@samaritans.org, just down. Her message, one of several relayed in the show, perfectly sums up her apologetic, ‘don’t mean to bother you, it’s probably nothing’ middle-class approach to mental health, making nervous jokes to relieve the awkwardness, but actually exacerbating it.

The unfolding, cringe-worthy exchanges provide by far the strongest strand in the well-constructed show, which Parris debuted at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and which now arrives at on-demand platform NextUp. But other elements have their joys, too, as she details various parts of her life.

Much of this seems to revolve around weddings, up to nine of the buggers a year, which is perhaps not surprising given a) her age, and b) her talents as a musician, always called upon to add a personal touch to acquaintance’s nuptials. 

She’s also a piano teacher to precocious and entitled brats, which surprisingly hasn’t put her off wanting children of her own – another subject she addresses with playful frankness as she speaks about her body clock meaning she’s metaphorically ‘clutching my womb and tapping my watch’. A deadline exacerbated by her newly single status. In a highly emotional downer of a song, she laments about the amicable end of that relationship: ‘There was love there, there’s no doubt, but it turns out love’s not enough.’ We all need a moment after that.

She sees herself as the next Elton John, and certainly there are some great numbers in his style here, covering such topics as the catching of the bridal bouquet, the freezing of eggs, hen dos and an epic track worthy of an epic occasion: her one and only visit to the gym.

Parris is also a member of the Jane Austen based improv show Austentatious, and plenty of the literary giant’s wry, elegant humour has rubbed off in the non-musical segments – although her hilarious peanut-based orgasm metaphor would probably be out of place in Pride and Prejudice.  

The conclusion to this stylish show is hopeful and joyous, as she conquers her black dog and counts her blessings. Yes, that 2.4-children life may have – so far – escaped her, but there is much more to celebrate in how things have turned out. And this show itself can definitely go into the ‘credit’ column of her achievements. 

Rachel Parris: Best Laid Plans, taped at 2Northdown in London, is available to view now via NextUp.

Review date: 12 Sep 2017
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