Sarah Kendall

Sarah Kendall

Sarah Kendall was nominated for the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy award in 2015, 12 years after her first Edinburgh solo show and 11 years after being nominated for the Perrier, as it then was, for the first time. She began comedy after winning the Raw Comedy competition in her native Australia in 1998.
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TV review by Steve Bennett

In recent years, stand-up Sarah Kendall has made a name for herself with nostalgic, whimsical storytelling shows, both live then adapted for Radio 4, which draw on her upbringing in a small Australian city. And she draws on the same sense of time and place for her new Sky comedy, Frayed, set her New South Wales home town of Newcastle in 1988.

The six-part comedy is clearly nostalgic in the way the setting allows for the big hairstyles, bold makeup and stylised clothing that have long since fallen out of fashion. But there’s a much less rose-tinted consideration of the past, too; of what happened to everyone else from a period that, for Kendall’s character Sammy, is frozen in aspic.

She is forced to consider this when circumstances propel her back to her working-class roots in Newcastle. She’d moved to London where she reinvented herself as sophisticated Simone, acquiring a plummy English accent and an equally plummy English husband, which allowed her to live the trappings of a rarefied life: kids at elite private school, a fleet of sports cars, a couple of yachts…

But when her husband dies in a kinky drug-fuelled sex session gone wrong, the financial and personal frauds that life was built upon quickly unravel, leaving Sammy and her two kids no option to move back in with a distant mum (literally and metaphorically) and unreconstructed slob of a brother, the sort of man who proudly wears a T-shirt saying ‘freelance gynaecologist’. 

So there are several strands here: the basic fish out of water as the sophisticated Sammy and adapts to the less pretentious life down under; the regression to childhood – grown-up siblings still crying: ‘Mum!’ to settle disputes; and the realisation that things have changed. For instance Dan, the alpha jock that Sammy was once fixated on now a paunchy, middle-aged PE teacher.

Tonight’s opening episode is rather too slow paced in setting all this up and getting Sammy and her kids down under. But once she has to face up to her new situation, things pick up considerably. It’s probably no coincidence that this is the same time Diane Morgan makes her first appearance, as Sammy’s colleague when she finally lands a job in the office of the local MP – a man she never gave the time of day to when they were at school together.

Morgan is just one of the impressive cast assembled for this. Rufus Jones. plays a doctor who reveals the full shameful details of Simone’s husband’s death; Kerry Goldman plays the prostitute he was with when he conked it (imparting the philosophical ‘what are these small decisions that amount to a life?’ before scratching her pubic lice); and Robert Webb the accountant who reveals the perilous state of the family’s finances. Perhaps such a cast is why the show was reluctant to leave the UK…

Kendall, whose winningly dry performance is central to the show's appeal,  has said she wanted to offer an alternative view of 1980s Australia than the one portrayed in the sun-soaked scenes of Neighbours and Home And Away, and she’s certainly paints a much less romantic picture. As they drive past beaten-up industrial units and run-down homes with supermarket trollies in the front yard, the montage evokes the opening sequence of The Sopranos, with New South Wales in place of New Jersey.

Once Frayed’s premise is finally established, it offers plenty of to suggest this is worth sticking with as Sammy’s habitual lies are exposed and she has to knuckle down and start to rebuild her life from scratch while confronting family tensions. Meanwhile the enforced displacement of her cossetted kids – played by Frazer Hadfield, Maggie Ireland-Jones – promises another comic strand to leaven a story that, initially at least, is often at least as dramatic as it is funny. 

• Frayed is on Sky1 at 10pm tonight.

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Published: 26 Sep 2019


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DVD (2009)

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2001

Sarah Kendall: War

Edinburgh Fringe 2002

Sarah Kendall Is Well Balanced

Edinburgh Fringe 2003

Sarah Kendall

Edinburgh Fringe 2004

Sarah Kendall

Edinburgh Fringe 2006

Sarah Kendall

Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Sarah Kendall: Get Up, Stand-Up

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Sarah Kendall: Touchdown

Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Sarah Kendall: Shaken

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Sarah Kendall: Paper Planes



Melbourne 2012

Sarah Kendall: Persona

Misc live shows

Funny Women gala 2005


Patrick Bustin
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