REVIEW | Life According To Saki | Edinburgh Fringe
Review by HISKIND on August 29th 2017
Written by acclaimed author Katherine Rundell, Life According To Saki is the finest example of storytelling at Edinburgh Fringe this year.
After being presented with the Carol Tambor Best of Fringe Award, the show will be performed in New York next Winter and after seeing the show, it is clear as to why.
Hector Hugo Munro, otherwise known as Saki, is a British writer. Known for his witty, bizarre and entertaining stories, we are introduced to him whilst he is fighting in the war at the start of the performance. The imaginative set is made of helmets and other warlike items. This is reflected in the ensemble cast that are all dressed in identical brown overalls, leaving room for additional costumes to be added to bring the multitude of characters to life.
Saki talks about his life and this is interjected with his famous stories that are portrayed excellently by the animated cast. Each story is visionary and surreal and the performers use a variety of theatrical elements such as puppetry and projections to bring them alive. Each actor is charismatic with the character they take on, and I enjoyed the exploration of gender roles as the men and women both play a variety of roles, in spite of what sex they are supposed to be.
Rundell’s script is a masterpiece, her ability to reimagine Saki’s stories in a light-hearted and funny way, and then to contrast that against the tragedy of WW1 is outstanding. Each story is completely entrancing and the piece itself echoes the magic of other productions that master storytelling simplistically, such as the National Theatre’s Warhorse.
Every single member of the ensemble provide a dedicated performance with their animated expressions and strong characterisation. They use themselves to become cars, horses and trains – the whole physicality of the production is triumphant and excellently polished.
However, it is the narrative of Saki that is the core of the piece, despite the crazy stories of hyenas and eccentric Parisians, the performance is brought to a close back in the trenches. Saki takes this moment to explain that life is a crazy thing and one day we won’t be around anymore. His final monologue is incredibly moving as he encourages the audience to “live hugely.”