If you’re not familiar with the work of Sarah Kendall you may not be alone. But you’d be wise to get on board fast.
Most of her comedy success has been in the UK. Now she brings it in her new ABC comedy, Frayed.
“I’ve lived in the UK for the entirety of my professional life. I started stand-up in 1998 and I moved to England in 2000. So I grew up comedically in England,” she tells TV Tonight.
“I didn’t really start enjoying proper success until the radio show Australian Trilogy. It won a lot of awards, and that was a really good springboard for getting attention as a writer.”
Kendall grew up in newcastle before moving to Sydney University at the age of 18. Her CV includes Edinburgh Festival and comedy events in Montreal, Kilkenny, Melbourne and Hong Kong. Her writing and performing credits include Beehive (Channel 4) and Comedy Cuts (ITV) and she is a regular cast member of Clare in the Community. She has made numerous appearances on television and Radio 4, including As Yet Untitled with Alan Davies, Russell Howard’s Good News, Best Behaviour, The Now Show, and Dilemma.
The idea for Frayed came from her radio work and an unfinished book, with the project heading to Sharon Horgan’s Merman Productions (Catastrophe, Divorce).
“People are liking authorship.”
But Kendall never expected to end up as star.
“Merman liked my writing and my stand-up. They had a clear company idea to work with female talent. That was their modus operandi. So we had meetings about 4 years ago,” she explains.
“I was writing the show expecting to do a casting call and attract a billboard face. But the general consensus was ‘People are liking authorship.’ They are liking writer-performers.
“So I’ve been incredibly fortunate, because it’s been a recent development in peoples’ tastes.”
Making light of Newcastle during the 1980s came naturally, from its roots as a coal mining town to its beaches and Aussie characters. Director Shaun Wilson magically captures the contrast between UK light and a stark, down under glare.
“When you get to Australia it’s a sensory bombardment.”
“I had that this morning, getting off the aeroplane and walking into an Australian morning,” Kendall admits.
“It’s like the sun is a much blunter object. You’re squinting and you’re trying to find shade. You can’t hide from the heat.
“Shaun really captured it beautifully with the colour palette. London was all blues and greys, but when you get to Australia it’s a sensory bombardment. Like the sun is throwing rocks at you.”
She is also surrounded by a strong ensemble including Kerry Armstrong, Ben Mingay, Doris Younane Matt Passmore and Britain’s Diane Morgan.
Having Kerry Armstrong also allowed her the indulgence to cram the 1980s plots with plenty of Dynasty references.
“When I realised we were getting Kerry Armstrong to play my mum we had a fantastic scene where Ben Mingay references her character in Dynasty. You’re prancing around like Lady Elena of Branagh!” she laughs.
“3 or 4 people will get that reference”
“3 or 4 people will get that reference but it was fun to have someone who has actually been in Dynasty. And she told me such great stories. She shot Ali MacGraw in the stomach!
“The two actors who played my kids were brilliant. Having someone like Kerry Armstrong saying the lines I’d written… she just elevates your work. Ben was hilarious, Doris was a scene stealer.”
Former Packed to the Rafters star George Hourvadas also returns to the screen.
“George Hourvadas came to the audition covered in brick dust from a renovation at his family restaurant,” Kendall recalls.
“He was doing a line as somebody running a business. But he is a guy who actually does run a business. It didn’t feel actor-y.”
And while performs with her own big ’80s hair and admits to being terrible with props, Kendall is hoping audiences will warm to her transition from stand-up to actress.
“I’ve been a stand-up for 20 years, getting to know exactly how you talk, deliver a line and what’s funny about you. So it wasn’t that much of a stretch to put it in front of a camera,” she adds.
“It felt like a natural progression.”
Frayed begins 9:10pm tonight on ABC.