The final instalment in Sarah Kendall’s trilogy of shows about her adolescence growing up in Newcastle, Australia, Shaken, even more so than Touchdown and A Day In October, focuses on the art of storytelling itself.
Star rating: ****
Venue: Assembly George Square Studios (Venue 17)
Those who’ve seen those past shows will recognise some characters as more youthful incarnations and anticipate how the hour might unfold. But it’s not crucial to enjoying the rich seam of long-form stand-up Kendall has lately been mining.
She’s even more interested in the journey rather than the destination this time, acknowledging the fantastic nature of the twists in her account and framing the core narrative within a conversation with her therapist – in which he implores her to speak truthfully rather than doodling crude juvenilia or always seeking the funniest reaction. She takes us back to 1989, when as a friendless 13-year-old, missing the school bus prompted her to invent a tale of being threatened with abduction.
Elevating her to the level of class and even community celebrity, she continued to embellish and promote the falsehood, even against her better judgement and the suspicions of a local police detective. Recalling how she lost authorship of the lie, in the present, she plants the idea that it’s the details you withhold that truly hook the listener, who fill in the gaps with their imagination. So much of what makes Shaken compelling is the deceptive ease with which Kendall shifts perspectives between herself as an anxious teenager, a therapy patient and a comedian in the room, her various selves casting doubt on each other’s witness testimony. As with A Day In October, I couldn’t help but feel emotionally manipulated afterwards, whilst appreciating the intricate layering of the narrative and the bittersweet humour derived from being taken for a ride. Or not.