Rachel Tunaley: 12 Lies I Told Before 21

MICF-Rachel-Tunaley-photo-by-Evangeline-KeplerRachel Tunaley wants to be famous. Sitting on her grandmother’s death bed, it was the only thing she could think about. On her 21st birthday she finally gets her chance in the spotlight when she invites her guests to witness a speech she’s written for herself, about herself.

For fifty five minutes, Tunaley takes us on a grand tour of an egotistical middle child’s most cringe-worthy anecdotes and embarrassing memories. Part-cabaret, part-confessional comedy, 12 Lies I Told Before 21 is an uproarious trip down a narcissist’s memory lane.

A self-admitted theatre kid and fame-hungry brat, she is a mix of Cher Horowitz and ‘Queen B’ Blair Waldorf without the popularity. She’s also a pathology liar. So if she can’t be a Queen B, she can at least lie about it until it’s true.

Why did she shave her eyebrows off in high school? It wasn’t because of a Dolly Magazine-induced razor accident. No, it’s the mark of a high octane oven explosion and heroic fiery rescue. In each one of the colourful birthday presents piled around her is a prop that represents another larger-than-life tale of deceit.

As the show goes on, the stakes of each lie increase; from a collection of shop-lifting adventures entitled the ‘Kleptochronicles’ to the misguided use of a fatsuit. Though each story gets more morally dubious, they fail to compromise Tunaley’s likeability.

In her hands, even attempted murder via some peanut-cinnamon muffins cannot compromise her near endless supply of charisma. If she can’t be famous she will at least be infamous.

It’s difficult to know how much of Tunaley’s actual life is peppered in among the mix of tall tales. As Tulaney exaggerates more and more story details, it becomes harder to believe in the stakes of what is being recounted, and the show risks going stale as a result.

Thankfully, Tunaley boasts an intuitive sense of her audience. Possible lulls in attention are quickly filled with tightly wound original songs and wry asides to the front row. And Tulaney’s honey-smooth vocal runs and soulful top notes easily capture and hold our attention.

While it’s unclear why a 21st speech is the platform for Tunaley’s nefarious confessions, by the end of her star-making speech one can only salute the birthday girl and her charismatic (albeit pathological) pursuit of fame with thunderous applause.

Rachel Tunaley: 12 Lies I Told Before 21
The Apollo Theatre (Speakeasy Theatre), 522 Flinders Street, Melbourne
Performance: Tuesday 4 April 2023 – 9.00pm
Season continues to 23 April 2023
Information and Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au

Image: Rachel Tunaley – photo by Evangeline Kepler

Review: Guy Webster