Returning to the Fringe for the first time since 2007, Sarah Kendall has spawned a monster in the interim: a “psychopath” child with whom a nightmare flight from her native Australia has her fondly recalling the days when parents could smack their kids.
Yet this isn’t another stand-up spouting forth on their toddler doing the funniest things. Rather it’s a protest on her daughter’s behalf at the creeping sexualisation of mainstream culture and the erosion of feminism. Elegantly sarcastic in its argument, underpinned by fury, Kendall’s show is nevertheless delivered with sufficient verve and lightness of touch not to browbeat the listener over the course of its well-structured hour.
Kendall takes R’n’B videos to task for their rampant misogyny, slams advocates of pole dancing for its failure to meet her eminently reasonable athletic criteria and rips into Ryan O’Neal for an inability to act anything other than a lothario, but she is no ingénue or prude – a fact she stresses with a glorious, honeyed drawl of cod-Tennessee Williams dialogue. She fantasises, in graphic and erotically sweaty detail, the video for American rapper Pitbull’s song Hotel Room Service with the genders flipped – an orgy of penises, all performing manoeuvres and contortions that she can only just bring herself to evoke without laughing or gagging.
At the heart of her profound disquiet remains the dubious moral propagated by The Ugly Duckling bedtime tale, with its suggestion that outward attractiveness trumps all persecution. She finds herself ad-libbing lines in the story, attributing a vindictive streak and spine to the future swan. And it was this mentality that she carried into one particular meltdown day, where a series of horrible incidents set the course of gender relations way back for the jobbing actor, culminating in two degrading commercial auditions. Emerging a little wiser from the experience, she dreams, tongue orbiting cheek, of a better tomorrow for her child, a solid conclusion to this heartfelt performance. Risking the audience’s patience though, she continues with The Ugly Duckling’s further adventures, a tremendous theatrical coda that she delivers with dastardly relish.
Rating: * * * *
Until 27 August. Today 8:30pm.