Soho Theatre, London
Guest reviewer: Jake Laverde
After having worked the UK stand-up circuit for over 18 years, London-based Australian comic Sarah Kendall has been making a name for herself during the past few years as a gifted storyteller. Her three previous shows had her spinning anecdotes of growing up in suburban Australia (with more than a pinch of embellishment) into finely crafted and compelling narratives.
In this latest work, debuted at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, One-Seventeen is another trip down memory lane as Kendall recalls more moments from her past. Many are probably a little far from the truth, but all are in service to a larger story. Without giving away too much, she weaves tales of domestic unrest, grandmothers with hidden depths and the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster together. Tackling them with a lightness of touch, Kendall knows exactly how and when to prick the pomposity with a well-timed and delivered gag before it all gets too worthy.
Because of Kendall’s straightforward and cheery persona, much of this show feels like a lively chat down the pub. Kendall’s impression of her mother as a shrieking harpy, a recurring character in her shows, may be a little unkind but it always gets big laughs. When Kendall talks about her own experience of being a mother, it’s both hilarious and affecting as she discusses it in her own good humoured way.
There’s many moments of crisis during this one hour but Kendall’s personable delivery makes each big revelation feel… well, personal. But what elevates this show above many other stand-up hours, is how Sarah Kendall is able to tie all of these incidents, dates and even space exploration into a finale that left the audience in rapt silence.
Kendall’s gift for finding the cosmic coincidence within near misses, loss and the everyday mundane comes to the fore here. Drawing you in with her wit before delivering simple, profound and unpretentious wonder. Doing this all so deftly that by the end of the night, the simple stage dressing of a black sheet and fairy light stars is transformed into something beautiful.