Sarah Kendall: Attention Seeker

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Attention Seeker is something of a misnomer for Sarah Kendall’s latest tour. This engaging Australian expat never been one of those comics who makes a great song and dance on stage, preferring instead to charm with her subtly told anecdotes and dry wit.

This show, too, is about how she doesn’t like drawing attention to herself, becoming especially bad in confrontational situations, where you need no fear of embarrassment. It is the familiar lot of every mild-mannered, middle-class person whose overwhelming compunction to be polite and inoffensive means the impolite and offensive run riot while the decent folk suppress their righteous anger.

That’s Kendall’s constituency – and she plays to them well. She imagines herself as something as a highbrow prankster, posing, for instance, as a bestselling author to liven up a train journey. But though you can admire the ingenuity of such playful mischief-making, you know it’s only ever theory; she would never really have the confidence to go through with them. (But, then again, she does claim to have inventively delivered a devastating insult to a schoolteacher...)

Similarly, she acknowledges that common affliction of never being able to think of the right putdown at the right time – instead, the perfect, witty line only comes hours after the incident has passed. The French, she explains, Have a Word for it: ‘esprit d’escalier’; the thought that occurs to you on the stairs as you leave the scene of the conversation.

How different life could be, she muses, if we could be more like those loud, no-nonsense, soundbite-hollering Americans who populate the studio audiences of confrontational chat shows. She recounts in great detail her eye-opening visit to the nest of vipers that is the Rikki Lake set, giving a blow-by-blow commentary of the insults that flew.

Kendall’s not the first person to laugh at such trashy TV, and, to be honest, others have got stronger material from it. Her forte, though, is in the descriptive detail, remembering every furious exchange and her shocked reaction to it.

It’s an entertaining anecdote, skilfully told – that’s what Kendall does. She can ratchet up the performance if needs be, for a keen observational gag about regional radio jingles, for instance, or when occupying the persona of one of those head-wagging Americans. But she is always apologetic afterwards, as if such compelling stage skills are at odds with the humble character she otherwise presents.

Attention Seeker is a display of her storytelling skills; not a fast-paced Knockabout laugh riot, but a genial comic offering affable true-life tales, pegged to an underplayed agenda. It is, in a word, nice – just as you would expect from such a well-mannered girl.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Leicester Comedy Festival, February 17, 2007

Review date: 1 Feb 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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