For her past few shows, Sarah Kendall‘s stock in trade has been intricately crafted stories that mix fact and fiction, drawing on her childhood in Newcastle, New South Wales, and observations about the world she now lives in. Her latest show, One-Seventeen, continues in that vein, and this time she has threaded in some deeply personal material.
The narrative moves back and forth between her childhood and her life today in south London as a married mother of two. Kendall tells us she’s a mixture of her histrionic mother (whose cartoonish voice is superbly rendered here) and her scientist, facts-based father – and her own parenting approach draws on both.
She tells overlapping stories that move seamlessly from one to another, forward and back in time then back again, and the effect suggests the interconnectedness of life, how everything has a purpose or meaning – even if we don’t realise it in the moment.
That’s some deep stuff for an hour-long comedy show, but Kendall – a warm and witty host – eschews any mawkishness and even throws in the odd scatological reference too. The tone is lighthearted but with an undertow of sadness, and payoffs that often capture both. Talking about her dad’s daring rescue of the family cat from a snake at a disastrous family gathering, Kendall says: “There are so few actions in life that can save both a cat and a marriage.”
One-Seventeen is about how life can change in an instant, and the theme is magnificently illustrated by stories that amusingly reference, among other things, the space programme, The Dukes of Hazzard and Halley’s Comet. Kendall, with just a gesture or a brief impression of the person being talked about, draws vivid pictures of her parents, their nouveau rich neighbours in Newcastle, her strikingly different grandmothers and a childhood friend who taught Kendall everything she needed to know about boys (or maybe not).
Also making an appearance – and the subject of the show’s title – is her children’s smelly pet hamster, whose vet’s bill of £150 far overtook the seven quid Kendall paid for it. But a mother’s love and all that…
This is a superbly crafted show, full of callbacks and neat twists, with laugh-out-loud lines dropped generously into the mix; Kendall is a superb storyteller.