A cheerful paper donkey piñata sits on stage at the start of Sarah Bennetto’s All My Life’s Mistakes, Catalogued (Volume One). It’s hardly much of a spoiler for us to reveal that, by the end of the show, Bennetto and her audience have conclusively smashed that ass. Given how much work was involved in getting her fleet of donkey punchbags to Edinburgh in the first place, Bennetto could forgiven if she refused to allow them to be breathed on heavily, let alone destroyed (the saga of #27donkeypiñatas made quite a splash on social media at the start of the Fringe).
Bennetto’s show is structured around a list of the biggest mistakes of her life. The piñatas, unsurprisingly, are on the list, and Bennetto gets good mileage from recounting the saga for the first few minutes of the show. The concept is clever, and Bennetto uses it well, picking items from her list apparently at random. Some of the items on the list seem a bit purposeless, and the stories surrounding them don’t always reach a satisfactory conclusion, but her enthusiasm and natural charm never let up.
Her room at Espionage, even by the eclectic standards of Fringe venues, is just plain awful – dark, echoey, and near hot enough to boil an egg. That’s hardly Bennetto’s fault, though, and she copes admirably.
Bennetto is unflinchingly honest, almost as if she’s incapable of being otherwise. She’s poured her heart into this story, and it shows. In the hands of a lesser comedian, her conclusion and finale would feel cynical and manipulative. Coming from Bennetto, though, it’s heart-wrenching and heartfelt in equal measure.