Edinburgh Fringe Review: Sarah Kendall, Assembly George Square

Reviewed by Claire Smith.
Australian comic storyteller Sarah Kendall creates landscapes and evokes atmospheres with such precision she makes everything seem vividly real.
Shaken begins with her shrink trying to find out what stories mean to her and why she has a tendency to overemphasise, exaggerate or lie. What is behind her compulsion to entertain?
Kendall flashes back to her childhood, growing up in Newcastle, Australia, awkward, overweight and with a mother who had an unerring talent for saying precisely the wrong thing in any given situation.
When she’s targeted by bullies, young Kendall retreats into her imagination but then accidentally lets something slip which lets the adults into her private world. The consequences are disastrous, involving her teachers, the police and eventually the whole town she lives in. Her mother, loving as she is, makes the whole thing worse and is always there with a devastating and demoralising one liner.
The audience roots for young Kendall in this disaster of her own making, even though she has clearly made a big mistake. As everything snowballs it is hard to see how she can ever get out of this gigantic mess.
Having created such a furore out of a lie Kendall has trapped herself in a situation where it is impossible to tell the truth. She becomes pitted in a battle of wills against the one single adult who sees right through her and resorts to an ingenious bit of trickery to unlock the facts.
It’s a tale told with complete mastery and lots of laughs. The structure is so superb you wonder about the artifice involved - which bits of this story are really true, and which have been shifted to suit the art and the intention of the storyteller.
The ending, when it comes, is wholly unexpected and so hard to believe that Kendall gets a member of her audience to Google contemporary news reports at the start of the show so that she can prove that this time she isn’t making anything up.
Young Kendall is forced to face the truth and to grow up - in a moment so shocking and moving it will make you cry. This tale of confused young adulthood ends, not in a slow burning revelation but in a flash, leaving the audience utterly stunned.
Until August 28. Tickets here.


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