C Chambers Street (Venue 34)
August 3rd to 29th (Not 15)
Saki, otherwise Hector Hugh Munro, was a very accomplished writer of Scottish family but very English manner, style and subject matter. His work has some echoes of Oscar Wilde’s approach, and he also saw English society from an outsider’s perspective. Both of them being gay added to this sense of detachment. Saki did not have to fight in World War I on account of age, but he did so.
This play sees Saki in the midst of war, in the trenches, surrounded by his men, whom he loved and says he hoped to be loved by. Katherine Rundell’s play, by turns entertaining, surreal and moving, shows us a great deal of what makes this writer tick. We see the soldiers enact a number of the stories, whether about a bloodthirsty bishop, hunting, animals both powerful and weak, the power of masks or the power of religious belief.
Framing all the action is the warm and authoritative performance of David Paisley as Saki, who leads us from story to story, and provides us with insights into his life and what is happening in the war. He contradicts some ideas of patriotism and the ease of dying in your country’s service. Because of time constraints, I am sure, a number of people left the show five or so minutes before the end when I saw this. This is not a good idea as the final section pulls everything together, and Paisley is very strong at the end, giving us Saki’s ideas on life, encapsulating the world according to Saki. (I scooted to my next show. So can others!)
Sometimes the stories seem to end suddenly, and we are elsewhere. Maybe this was an intentional effect, or maybe that old fringe clock ticking. However, this was an immersive theatrical experience, with darn good, inspiring performances by David Paisley and all the cast. The venue was packed when I saw this one; get your tickets while you can.