Thursday, 10 May 2001
Charles Maude & Saki: The Watched Pot
Edition: Penguin, 1982
Review number: 818
In this "complete works" of Saki, there are three items listed as plays. Two of them are really only sketches, about five pages each, which would fit into the collections of short stories quite well. (There are a couple of short stories which are actually in play format already.) The Watched Pot is different, a collaboration of considerable length with Charles Maude.
In the play, the largely offstage character Hortensia Bavvel wields an absolute tyrrany not just over her household but over everyone with whom she comes into contact, trying to mould a resentful and ungrateful world to be the way she thinks it ought to be. When her son marries, however, her power will come to an end, and because of the damage she is unwittingly doing to the prospects of the Party at the next election, many people have turned into matchmakers. Trevor shows no preference for any of the young women to whom he is introduced, and exen exhibits a tendency to fall asleep whenever left alone with one.
According to the introductory note, Maude said that the basic dialogue was his responsibility, while Monro provided the wit; Maude's major problem was to keep the witty remarks sparse enough that they didn't swamp the whole story. The Watched Pot is very funny, and contains some memorable examples of Saki's humour; Maude's input ensures that it is not as stilted and undramatic as the short plays by Saki alone.