Life According to Saki

Whether you’ve never heard of Saki before or consider yourself a die hard fan, this production is sure to please. Saki (Hector Hugo Munro) was an Edwardian short story writer and satirist in a similar vain to Max Beerbohm or Jerome K. Set in the trenches of WWI shortly before his death, Saki regales his men with stories in between bouts of monologuing.

If you see this show and have not had the pleasure of reading Saki before, I can ensure you’ll want to run to a local book shop and pick up a copy of his works.

The script provided by Katherine Rundell is a solid piece of writing, and although Saki’s work does most of the heavy lifting, the show is peppered with plenty of gags and bon mots. It must have been a task adapting the stories for stage but they are all pitched perfectly. The show is very tech- and special effects-light, so clever use of costumes and puppets bring the harder-to-realise characters to life. The child puppet in Sredni Vashtar is especially good, as it conveys the perfect mix of innocence and malice that the part requires. 

The cast are exceptional at inhabiting the myriad of characters they play. The key to their success is that they make the characters believable rather than actively looking for laughs. That being said, there is a good amount of physical comedy throughout the show; the horse-riding in Esme is a riot.

It is difficult to pick out a top performer from a such a strong cast, especially when they bounce off each other so well. David Paisley is the beating heart of the piece in the titular role, but when not providing a monologue he is often sidelined. Caitlin Thorburn just adds enough idiosyncratic tics to her characters to make her a stand out performer.

If you see this show and have not had the pleasure of reading Saki before, I can ensure you’ll want to run to a local book shop and pick up a copy of his works.

Reviews by James W. Woe

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Performances

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The Blurb

New play from acclaimed author Katherine Rundell (Rooftoppers, The Wolf Wilder, The Girl Savage) inspired by the short stories of Saki. Best described as like Oscar Wilde crossed with Roald Dahl, Saki’s creations are witty, absurd – and peculiarly optimistic. Life, according to Saki, is wild and funny and precious and a little unhinged. Performed by an ensemble cast, this vibrant production (including drama, dance and puppetry) premieres at the 2016 Fringe, exactly a century after Saki's tragic death in the trenches of the First World War.

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