The 2016 Best of Edinburgh Award Winner “LIFE ACCORDING TO SAKI” by Katherine Rundell was announced August 26 at the Scotsman Award Ceremony in Edinburgh.
Kate’s recreation of H. H. Munro’s tales, the story of the man and the reasons he was beloved, was a huge hit. The play ran in February 2017 at the 4th Street Theater to sold out audiences.
About LIFE ACCORDING TO SAKI
Playwright Katherine Rundell, not only has a doctorate from Oxford but is also a Fellow of All Souls (only two a year, reputed to be a selection by the most difficult academic exam). Her essay on Saki, a British literary icon, appeared in the August 2016 issue of The London Review of Books.
The play reflects her, and the director’s, intellect. It weaves words by Saki, spoken to the audience by the marvelous David Paisley, with his stories played out by the other five cast members – sometimes soldiers, sometimes characters in his wild tales.
The play is incredibly polished. You walk into the theatre where there’s a vignette of six soldiers relaxing in front of wooden beams and sandbags, representing the trenches. It’s beautifully lit and costumed. Music is playing, evoking the period. You will be immediately transported.
The persistent contrast of tone, as well as time, fascinates. I was never sure whether the characters would say something cruel or funny – often both! Then, Saki spoke with such kindness for his fellow man. He chose to enlist in WWI, although middle aged, and not wanted by the army. Once in the trenches he delighted his soldiers with these tales.
Since many New Yorkers are familiar with the works of writers influenced by Saki, such as Noel Coward, A. A. Milne, Roald Dahl, among many others and since he’s so beloved by Brits— I though this a great introduction to Saki’s oeuvre. Every Brit I asked said they read and reread his stories, but not many Americans.
The play ends with an actual letter sent after Saki’s death by one of his men. In it, he says how all his men loved him and what a splendid chap he was. This contrasts with his background and even his complicated politics– he was a Tory , but also gay, in the time of Oscar Wilde’s persecution.
Enjoy this wondrous play!
Carol Tambor publishes a monthly newsletter, which announces worthy shows coming to New York, along with occasional information about London theatre and, of course, the Edinburgh Fringe.