Soho Theatre, London – until 8 March 2017
“You have to laugh now, you have to.”
Who knew you could email the Samaritans? You learn something new everyday and often in the most unexpected of places. Rachel Parris may be a familiar to name to those who follow Austentatious and my minor obssession with this hilarious improv troupe but Best Laid Plans sees her step towards the script with her own solo comedy show, seen in Edinburgh last year and now touring the UK, including the sexually frigid (or so we hear) town of Guildford.
And though the show starts off brightly with amusing anecdotes about the trials of being a single piano-playing 30-something with endless wedding invites (“I’m not Elton John”), we soon see that the show is rooted in a deep sadness, the break-up of a long-term relationship whose true impact only hits like a sledgehammer months later. At this point, Parris began her communications with the Samaritans and began the painstaking reassessment of her life.
It’s funnier, much funnier than it sounds. Parris sprinkles her set with songs from the grand piano in Soho Theatre’s basement where she details messily awkward sexual encounters, punctures the smugness of those who brag about going to the gym and most memorably of all, faces off on a train with the hen-do from hell to the tune of Don McLean. Lyrically inventive and musically most accomplished (I wonder what the going rate for piano lessons is?!), they buoy the show with good-natured frivolity.
For inbetween, her recital of her emails with Jo – the pseudonym adopted by Samaritans’ volunteers – reveal some of the fear and depression that turning 30 without having achieved any of the major life milestones her 6-year-old self dreamed of has left her with. And in a standout moment of piercing emotional truth, a song that dissects the reasons for breaking up with her perfectly compatible partner (Tom Hiddleston or no) leaves you just wanting to hug this most engaging of performers. Heartfelt and hilarious, this is comedy with depth.