Comedy: Sarah Kendall, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

She works hard for her funny
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The Independent Culture

Two years ago, the Australian comedian Sarah Kendall was nominated for the Perrier Award, the first woman on the short list for nearly a decade. The nomination seemed out of proportion for the reasonable, but not spectacular, show that was on offer. However, it was fair to say that Kendall had grown as a comic having built up a solid Edinburgh track record.

The gangly comedian with her Rapunzel-length ginger locks is an immensely likeable character and a technically sound performer. In her slightly nasal tone, Kendall is extremely considered with her set-ups and energetic with her punch lines. She is rarely ruffled or lost for words and, if she is, it is engagingly so. Given this ability to banter it was a shame not to see her engage more with the audience tonight. In one brief example she dealt with a rogue mobile phone by identifying the ringtone as "Old School Vaudeville" and imagined the owner of the phone in the process of choosing this unlikely musical pattern.

Kendall's speciality, however, is the "long play" observational anecdote. The pièce de résistance example in this show is the tale of her singing The Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar" at a karaoke night to a hen party made up of black women, and Kendall realising halfway through the song's dubious racial content.

The yarn becomes complicated by a number of other factors and seems so crazy that it must be apocryphal - either way it is lovingly crafted. But even with the quality of the craftsmanship, the end product is not as satisfying as it might be. Another epic tale comes in the form of a blow-by-blow account of a taping of a Ricki Lake show and is rather rambling. It does culminate in a powerful punch line but not one of her own making. It seems like a lot of work for scant reward.

Meanwhile, the flipside of Kendall's becoming persona is earnestness, and her frequent incredulous reactions to people who have vexed her seem overplayed to get the audience on her side rather than for comic effect. Added to this is a touch of smugness as she outwits her victim. That said, she can exhibit some nice turns of phrase here and there - describing a hat she wears as "so big even Gandalf would say that's a big hat" - and she mocks the Australian national pride in their sportsmen and women by enacting the emotional reaction of a woman who has just won a medal for ribbon dancing before musing that in years to come the memories of "prancing about with a string" won't be enough to sustain her.

Kendall's show is at times playful, at times loveable but never consistent. It's as if she's still where she was in 2004, although that probably makes her a candidate for the newly named Eddie (or Iffy, if you prefer) comedy award.

To 28 August, except 14 (0131-556 6550)