Sarah Kendall

Sarah Kendall: Paper Planes

02/08/19

Assembly George Square (Studio 2), Edinburgh

The Fringe is a yearly delight for us, a great big box of chocolates with next to no labelling, so we never really know what to expect. We’re always on the lookout for fresh, exciting new acts, but there are also a few stalwarts we return to again and again, mostly I suppose, because they represent the nearest we’ll ever get to a guarantee of quality.

Sarah Kendall is one of those stalwarts. We first saw her in 2015 with the quietly devastating A Day in October and we’ve gone back to drink at the same well every year since. If Paper Planes doesn’t quite achieve the heights of her finest work, it nonetheless features her unique blend of ascerbic comedy and intriguing storytelling and I can think of few better ways to spend an hour than in her excellent company.

A story told in four chapters, topped and tailed by a prologue and an epilogue, the latest show is an apparently scattershot narrative that takes in a whole series of diverse experiences: Sarah telling bedtime stories to her daughter, telling lies to her agent and being generally appalled by the things her (weirdly voiced) mother says on the phone. She spends time in American hotels as she travels to LA touting for work, all the while trying to motivate herself to write the book for which she’s accepted a large advance. As she goes, she reflects on world events, commenting on the dangerous lurch to the right that seems to be happening in the Western world and worrying that she should be doing something to address the situation.

It’s a wide-ranging piece but – with unerring skill – she manages to find the funny in all of her subjects, nailing them one-by-one with her rapier wit. She even manages to tie all those supposedly loose threads together to achieve a satisfying and genuinely heartwarming conclusion.

If you haven’t experienced Sarah Kendall yet, then this is surely the perfect year to address that situation. Go and see her for yourself. You’ll be engaged, surprised and entertained, but the one thing you won’t be is disappointed.

4.6 stars 

Philip Caveney

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Edfest Bouquets 2017

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It was another fantastic three weeks at the Fringe for us. We crammed in as many shows as we possibly could – and still barely managed to scratch the surface. Here’s our pick of the best we saw this year. Congratulations to everyone mentioned.

Theatre

Seagulls – Volcano Theatre

Peer Gynt – Gruffdog Theatre

The Power Behind the Crone – Alison Skilbeck

Safe Place – Clara Glynn

Pike Street – Nilaja Sun

 

Comedy

The Darkness of Robins – John Robins

Kinabalu – Phil Wang

Dominant – John Robertson

Mistress & Misfit – Shappi Khorsandi

Oh Frig, I’m 50! – Richard Herring

 

Story Telling

One Seventeen – Sarah Kendall

These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone – Will Greenway

The Man on the Moor – Max Dickins

Eggsistentialism – Joanne Ryan

Blank Tiles – Dylan Cole

 

Special Mentions

The Toxic Avenger: The Musical – Aria Entertainment & Flying Music

Up Close – Chris Dugdale

The Cat Man Curse – Pelican Theatre

Cathy – Cardboard Citizen Theatre

Well Meaning, but Right Leaning – Geoff Norcott

Sarah Kendall – One Seventeen

05/08/17

Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

Reviewing at the Fringe, as we do every year, we make a point of trying to see as many new acts as possible – but there are some we just cannot allow ourselves to miss and Sarah Kendall definitely belongs in that category. This skilled storyteller from Newcastle Australia really is a spellbinding performer, who never fails to create a fascinating and highly original show. One Seventeen is no exception, even if I’m left a little confused by the relevance of the title.

She wanders out onto the stage and launches straight into a seemingly unconnected series of events, with recollections from her childhood cleverly intercut with more recent observations of her life in London. The subject matter is so disparate – from an attempt to see Halley’s Comet to a friend’s cancer diagnosis – that, at first, you really can’t see how she’s going to tie it all together. But then she does – effortlessly, satisfyingly – utilising incredible skill and just the right amount of pathos, holding the audience in the palm of her hand all the way through.

Kendall isn’t exactly a comedian, though you will laugh out loud at much of what she says. She’s a talented writer who crafts her material with incredible precision. Little wonder she gets nominated for so many awards.

If you’re at the festival this year, don’t miss her. She’s really rather wonderful.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

 

Edfest Bouquets 2016

 

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31/08/16

It’s been another amazing August for us at Bouquets & Brickbats. We’re exhausted after a month of non-stop theatre and comedy! We have seen some absolutely fantastic stuff, covering a huge range of ideas. Here’s our pick of the best we’ve seen at this year’s Fringe:

Drama Bouquets

  1. Neontopia / Wales Millennium Centre – A Good Clean Heart by Alun Saunders
  2. Aurora Nova – The Blind Date Project by Bojana Novakovic
  3. Rainbow Class by Vivienne Acheampong
  4. Gaggle Babble / National Theatre Wales – Wonderman by Daf James
  5. Something for the Weekend – Royal Vauxhall by Desmond O’Connor

Monologue Bouquets

  1. NJC Productions – The Way the City Ate the Stars by Will Greenway
  2. George Dillon – Stunning the Punters (& Other Stories) by Berkoff, Sproat and Dostoevsky
  3. Lorenzo Novani – Cracked Tiles by Lorenzo Novani
  4. Impi Theatre Company – The South Afreakins by Robyn Paterson
  5. Berk’s Nest – Vaudeville by Tom Neenan

Stand-up Comedy Bouquets

  1. Bridget Christie – Mortal
  2. Sarah Kendall – Shaken 
  3. Loyiso Gola – Dude, Where’s My Lion?
  4. Garrett Millerick – The Dreams Stuff is Made Of
  5. John Robertson – Arena Spectacular

‘Ones to Watch Out For’ Bouquets

  1. Phosporos Theatre – Dear Home Office
  2. Chris Dugdale – Full Circle
  3. Flabbergast Theatre – Tatterdemalion
  4. Teateri – Evil by Jesper Arin
  5. Amy Howerska – Smashcat

Sarah Kendall: Shaken

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08/08/16

Assembly George Square Studios, Edinburgh

I am in awe of Sarah Kendall. Her story-telling skills are extraordinarily good. There is real artfulness in the way she manipulates her audience, expounding all the tricks she employs before using them to full effect. It’s clever, canny stuff – and I love it.

In Shaken, she returns to her adolescence in Newcastle, Australia – a topic that served her equally well in last year’s A Day in October. The hapless George Peach even puts in another appearance, although he’s very much a bit player in this year’s tale. This time, Kendall is ostensibly analysing why storytelling is so important to her, but the main focus is an account of a lie she told when she was just thirteen, and how the resulting attention was so intoxicating, it made her careless of the consequences. And we know all along that it’s not quite true (“The gist of it is true,” she tells her therapist in an opening sequence; she’s clarifying her position right from the start), but she draws us in, beguiles us with a Google ‘fact check’, makes us laugh and squirm and, in the end – damn it, she’s done it again – she makes us cry.

Sarah Kendall was by far the best comedian we saw at last year’s Fringe, and Shaken is another triumph. Her performance is spell-binding, deceptive in its apparent simplicity. She deserves the attention she so clearly craves. Give it to her. Buy a ticket. It’s not a purchase you’ll regret.

5 stars

Susan Singfield

Edfest Bouquets 2015

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It’s been an amazing August for us at Bouquets & Brickbats. We’ve spent the entire month running from show to show, and have seen some truly brilliant performances. Here’s our pick of the best we’ve seen at this year’s Fringe:

Drama Bouquets

  1. Phantom Owl Productions – Filthy Talk for Troubled Times by Neil La Bute
  2. Phantom Owl Productions – Fault Lines by Stephen Belber
  3. Paines Plough – Lungs by Duncan McMillan

Monologue Bouquets

  1. Noni Stapleton  – Charolais by Noni Stapleton
  2. Thom Tuck – Scaramouche Jones by Justin Butcher
  3. Tom Neenan – The Andromeda Paradox by Tom Neenan

Stand-up Comedy Bouquets

  1. Stewart Lee – A Room With A Stew
  2. Sarah Kendall – A Day In October
  3. Garrick Millerick – A Selection of Things I’ve Said to Taxi Drivers

‘Ones to Watch Out For’ Bouquets

  1. Alfie Brown – Isms
  2. Morro and Jasp – Morro and Jasp Do Puberty
  3. Master of None Productions – Foxfinder by Dawn King

Philip Caveney and Susan Singfield

Sarah Kendall: A Day In October

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21/08/15

Assembly, George Square, Edinburgh

You’ll find plenty of stand-ups at the Fringe, good, bad and indifferent but Sarah Kendall works differently to most other comedians. In ‘A Day in October’ she gives us what is essentially a protracted exercise in skilful storytelling, something that’s clearly based around real life experiences she had in her youth, in Newcastle, Australia. From her vivid descriptions of the inhabitants, it wasn’t on the tourist routes. This is the story of George Peach, a boy at her school who was constantly bullied and it’s about the awful accident that turned his life around.

Kendall really excels here, building the story piece-by-piece, layer-by-layer, dropping a whole bunch of clues that really should warn us about what she’s going to do, but at the same time, expertly misdirecting us so that the final twist, when it comes, is absolutely shattering. I don’t want to give the impression that this is not brilliant comedy: it is, and those in search of a good laugh will not be disappointed. But there’s also a deeper intelligence at work here, something which elevates this show above much of the competition.

The term ‘comedy gold’ is often used but rarely as thoroughly deserved as it is here.

5 stars

Philip Caveney