Rachel Parris: Keynote

★★★
comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Rachel Parris
Published 19 Aug 2017

There's only so long Rachel Parris is going to be able to sustain the underdog act, having just been propelled to new levels of exposure as a correspondent on the new Nish Kumar vehicle, The Mash Report. For now, though, she's sticking with it, and eking good mileage as a result. Keynote springs out of a request from Parris's old school for her to speak at the annual prize-giving ceremony – a jumping off point which requires her to explore the dual conundrums of a) why on earth has she been asked and b) what on earth is she going to tell them.

It's a solid conceit, and she uses the space to take some good pops at (mostly American) motivational speaking, and the vacuousness of off-the-shelf ideas like "love is everything". Obviously, there's great opportunity for songs, and the gulf between the "follow your dreams" aspirational bunkum, and the reality of lived life is an excellent place for Parris. She's a specialist in popping bubbles, mixing grand heart chords with hyperbole-busting mundanities. These are definitely her strongest points – though some songs sit way out of her vocal range, which is an odd mistake for a talented musician. This talent is much better displayed in a finale which sees her weave audience motivational suggestions into song.

Perhaps less successful are the long 'what if' speeches which imagine some poor combinations of audience, presenter and content. The ideas are good, but can't be sustained for the space she devotes to them. They feel flogged to fill space, and could work much better as quick punctuation points to change the pace and style. That's not a very motivational way to finish, is it. But, as Parris tells us (surprisingly motivatingly), "you'll be fine".