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Sarah Kendall: Shaken review

| Comedy, Festivals | 22/08/2016


Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Despite being an excellent storyteller and multi-award winning comedian, Kendall can’t quite harmonise the two in her new show about the serious consequences of lying.

Shaken begins with Sarah Kendall giving a window into her therapy sessions, to illustrate she’s a flawed human being who feels a constant need to entertain.  That is, she’s a comedian.  Then, as the therapist begins to lose patience with her constant joking and evasion, Kendall’s put on the spot and asked to explain why she’s the way she is.

This moves into the main part of the show, in which Kendall answers her therapist by talking about an incident that happened in her home town of Newcastle, New South Wales, in 1989.  It’s a quiet place, polarised between the onscreen action in the local cinema and the mundanity of life in the adjoining carpark and beyond.  “If Ferris Bueller had been set in my town,” she says, “he’d have smoked a bong, had a wank and gone back to bed.”

From that environment pours a rich story, full of twists and turns, in which an overweight and unpopular girl (Kendall) invents a story about a Tom Hanks lookalike (Turner & Hooch vintage) trying to abduct her.  She does this almost unthinkingly, to hide her embarrassment at hurting herself on the way to school.  Inevitably, the lie spirals out of control when the police and media get involved, and doubts arise over her honesty – mainly from her mother and Detective Sergeant Miller.

There are serious consequences for some, although – fleetingly – fame and new-found popularity for Kendall.  But this always seems like it will come at a price.  Sure enough, the story ends in tragedy and plenty of food for thought.

My main problem with the show is that Shaken would work much better as a book (and one that I’d go out and buy tomorrow) than as stand-up comedy.  To work effectively in this format, it needs a higher laughter-count, or a more vulnerable and relatable narrator.  Kendall’s very talented, but projects an Antipodean toughness from the moment she bounds onstage talking forcefully about dick drawings and bowel movements.  As a result, she finds it hard to generate much sympathy from an admittedly difficult crowd, necessary before embarking on a story that portrays her younger self so unfavourably.

Sarah Kendall is performing Shaken at 18.45 until 28th August (with extra shows at 22.30 on 25th and 27th) at Assembly George Square Studios.  Get tickets here.

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