Sarah Kendall – Persona [FringeTIX]
Sarah Kendall @ Rhino Room – Downstairs
9:00pm, Tue 21 Feb 2012
In the non-Fringe-season – i.e., the other eleven months of the year – I pilfer the best bits of British TV. You know – using that dodgy internet thing. I regularly scan the shows on “offer” and snaffle the ones that look interesting, usually the cooking shows (which remain unwatched) and comedy programmes that we simply don’t get out here.
One day, I grabbed a comedy variety show – something like a Royal Gala performance or similar, I honestly can’t remember. But Sarah Kendall performed a short set on that program, and I was gobsmacked… an Aussie with a biting sense of humour and, seemingly, no fear of established norms.
Long story short – I was expecting a lot from Sarah Kendall. And I’m not sure I got it.
After quipping about the backstage area – which, for the Downstairs room at Rhino, is little more than a broom closet – Kendall passed judgement on the arrangement of the small crowd – it’s like there’s a divot in the middle of the room, she reckons. It’s a low key start – not what I was expecting – but it’s cheery enough.
But then she plunges into a river of material dredged from her experiences of motherhood, from reading adapted bedtime stories to her daughter (her modern additions to The Ugly Duckling are worth a chortle) to bizarre birthing stories, which detail her husband flying across the room to catch an errant piece of faecal matter.
And that stuff kinda loses me a bit.
But then she wins me back with stories of auditioning for TV ads, rants about pole dancing, and the hilarious/horrific description of her Worst Gig Ever. And her closer, a modern sequel to The Ugly Duckling, is a beautifully constructed affair, with callbacks to nearly every thread of the previous hour. It’s a clever piece that convinces me that Kendall is a great writer, and her delivery is perfect.
The problem is that the show, overall, was patchy. Kendall is clearly very comfortable onstage, and clearly has the wit and barb and bravery to turn any subject matter into humour… but there were too many bits that felt disposable, and some of the better bits had the feel of excess polish. Especially when I saw a good chunk of that material again the next night. And, indeed, on YouTube, from a spot recorded three years ago. And that, unfortunately, just has a hint of laziness about it.
Don’t get me wrong: the good bits are very very good… it’s just that there’s flat bits, too, and I wish that there wasn’t.