The Harri-Parris: The Big Day is a 90 minute old school comic onslaught, showcasing the very best and the very worst of the Welsh stereotype through one hilariously dysfunctional family who are as lovable as they are completely bonkers. Entering the small upstairs theatre in Chapters Arts Centre to the sound of Jessie J’s ‘Bang Bang’ it is immediately clear that this is a show that won’t be taking itself too seriously or playing to conventions. The small theatre loans itself perfectly to the intimate atmosphere of the piece; a cosy farmhouse kitchen setting and the notion that the audience are all inhabitants of the fictional village of Llanllai who have just ‘popped by’ to witness ‘The Big Day’ made this into an interactive piece of theatre with innocent audience members cast as current love interests, psychotic exes and untrustworthy rivals.
This is The Harri-Parris’ second hit comedy musical created by Mai oh Mai theatre company and opens on the Harri-Parris family preparing to welcome Anni Harri-Parris (a delightful rhyme of a name which is as much fun to say as the character is to watch) and her fiancé Ben (Oliver Wood) who is, oh horror of horrors, from Manchester! Hilarity ensues as the well-meaning but slightly overbearing Aunt Glenda (Rhian Morgan) and her nephew, the flamboyantly camp Deiniol (Rhys ap Trefor) do all they can to give him the Welshest welcome anyone has ever had, amidst Anni’s brother Ifan’s (Dan Rochford) obvious disdain for the Englishman. It is a dislike only further antagonised when poor Ben, completely incapable of pronouncing ‘Ifan’ correctly, asks what it is Welsh for only to be snarkily informed by Ifan that there is not a Welsh equivalent for everything, for example, ‘We don’t have Welsh words for English or cheeky or twat.’
Littered with Welsh idiom and language, The Harri-Parris finds the perfect balance between not leaving non-Welsh speakers excluded and not patronising those who do speak the language. This is comedy theatre at its best; five incredibly talented actors who can do it all; impeccable timing, superb writing from Llinos Mai who plays the long-suffering Anni Harri-Parris and fantastic musical numbers in which the cast transforms into an all-singing, all-dancing live band. Most of the songs are wonderfully mad and get increasingly bizarre in-keeping with the story line. By the end of the night the show has descended into downright farce and most of the audience can hardly catch their breath for laughing.
The Harris-Parris: The Big Day is the rarest of things: a truly Welsh show for Welsh people that is just as popular with non-Welsh speaking audiences. It is a feel-good show to brighten the darkest of moods and it might just make you fall in love with Wales all over again.