“As good as Fringe theatre gets… a triumph”
It’s always telling when I leave a performance I’ve been reviewing with an almost empty page of notes. It doesn’t happen often, but in this case I was so engrossed that I simply forgot to write much down.
Set in the trenches in WW1, Saki writes to his dear Ethel at home, recounting stories to kill time. His fellow soldiers become the characters in each story and the piece flows seamlessly from one to the next like waves crashing against the shore.
Written by children’s author Katherine Rundell, the script maintains a playful and slightly mischievous feel throughout, expertly capturing the style and tone that Saki’s short stories are known and loved for. For those unfamiliar with his work, think Roald Dahl, but a bit more grown up. Among others there are tales of a man who becomes a living work of art, a couple who can’t get married due to already having 13 children between them, a politician forced to share a room with a pig and a chicken, and a small boy who believes his ferret has god-like qualities. It’s all good clean fun, but with a moral lesson behind each one. Oh and they are funny. Very funny.
The cast keep the piece moving at a fair pace, whipping out props and costumes seemingly from nowhere ready to set the scene the moment it is introduced. Their dexterity is something to be marvelled at, and Jessica Lazar’s direction makes the most of every look, tableau and minor character for maximum impact. It’s a show that pays great attention to detail, which I very much admire.
While the ensemble cast is fantastic, playing a multitude of characters of differing genders, ages and nationalities to comic perfection, it’s David Paisley (playing Saki himself) who stands out at as the star performer. Gentle, engaging and with great emotional sensitivity it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with him.
Yes, the props and set are quite basic and the narrative is little more than Saki recounting stories while killing time in the trenches, but the soul and spirit of this piece are really what makes it. And when I really think about it (which in this case I did, long and hard), in my humble opinion this is about as good as Fringe theatre gets. Simply, a triumph.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 7 August)