Saved @The Lyric Theatre 4*

Brace yourself for one hell of a ride.  Banned, prosecuted and vilified when premiered in the ‘60s Edward Bond’s “Saved”, is the first previously-banned production to leave me short of breath. This production is certain to offend although the sum of this work extends far beyond any shock-value.

Micheal Feast and Morgan Watkins: photoTristram Kenton for The Guardian

An apt selection in today’s economic climate, “Saved” paints an uncompromising picture of modern city living – deprived and depraved. In a society short of work and money resentment simmers, anger is turned inward and, once boiling, the very weakest in society is victimised.

Watkins and Lia Saville in "Saved"

From a drab family in which nary is a word passes between husband and wife springs only daughter Pam (Lia Saville): promiscuous, needy and masochistic. A lascivious encounter with Len (Morgan Watkins) turns to romance, the hollow promise of better times, and he becomes entrenched as the lodger in this strange household. As romance sours Pam rejects Len’s devotion falling amorous of his dismissive mate Fred (Calum Callaghan).  A baby ensues that is neglected, unnamed and studiously ignored. In one deeply disturbing scene, foreshadowing worse to come, the baby wails inconsolably as a heedless Pam coldly preens for a date.  Fred’s callous nature becomes clear as he abandons Pam for nights out with his hooligan mates.  Len stands by Pam throughout becoming her punching-bag unwilling to remove himself from this situation.

When the ultimate depravity occurs in the park and the baby is attacked we see how Len is incapable of extricating himself and how responsibility extends beyond the aggressors. With only a brief internment for the accused life continues with little change. Despite being the only character to strive for some shred of decency Len in particular is powerless to disentangle himself from this quagmire of his own making.

Calum Callaghan as Fred

Sean Holmes’ production sends a chilling message that the society portrayed is one for which all are responsible. His stellar cast deliver unshakeable performances; alongside the doggedly loyal Len, the flinty Pam and cruel Fred shine the mother and father team brilliantly portrayed by Susan Brown and Michael Feast.

It is unclear in the final sequence as Len mends a chair and Pam thumbs the Radio Times if redemption will be found yet, as clearly as the words unspoken, if anyone is to be “Saved” it is not by silent acceptance.

Until 05 November 2011

Lyric Hammersmith
Lyric Square, King Street
London, UK, W6 0QL

Nour Festival of Arts Launch at Leighton House

The Nour Festival, showcasing contemporary Arab, Middle East and North African Art, Music, Film, Fashion, Literature, Shopping and Food launched in the less contemporary surroundings of Leighton House, Kensington last week.

Welcoming in the two month festival was remarkably easy for Leighton House and there was a natural fit between contemporary cutting edge artists and their temporary surroundings. The self confident grace of Saud Al Attar’s tree of life series sat comfortably alongside Lord Leighton’s high Victorian art.

Passing through Leighton’s remarkable 1877 Arab Hall and his collection of 16th and 17th century Damascus tiles, the first Nour display guests saw was a collaboration between children of the Chelsea Community Hospital School and a school in the Gaza Strip. This link up is a notable achievement given the bureaucracy involved as well as the political sensitivities in the UK (Michael Gove recently went out of his way to attempt to ruin the Tottenham Palestinian Literature Festival because it involved such bonds forming). But the display of models of Palestinian keys from the pre-Israel era is presented without fuss, and without politics.

This set the tone for Nour: unpretentious, politically aware and direct.

But, Nour does not labour on the political. In the year of the Arab Spring, these artists come with no political dogma, but with something far more ethereal. Equality and confidence promise a fascinating two months of rich diversity.

The Nour Festival has many free events and a programme can be downloaded.

The highlights are too many to name, but watch out this Friday for London’s own Master Mimz (of Back Down Mubarak fame, but with so much more to come) in conversation with Randa Safieh about Arabic Hip Hop, to be followed by an acoustic performance.

Nour Festival of Arts – Until the 30th November, Leighton House, 12 Holland Park Road, Kensington, W14  8LZ

Master Mimz – Performance and conversation, Free Event! 14th October

Urban Dandy was at…

East Pop is a touring showcase of East End artistry. The brainchild of Red Gallery, producers of “East End Promise” an exhibition recording the transformative work s of 1985-2000, the current show explores today’s art scene. Last week we visited the show’s West London incarnation.  This show has currently reopenend as “East Pop Red” as part of the Frieze Art Fair at Red Gallery from 12-18 October before gearing up for further roadshows in Edinburgh and Berlin for starters.

This is an all encompassing event bringing together every form of artist and designer imaginable in a sprawling industrial space. Performance artists, films, an interactive art disco, furniture, installations, prints, painting, musicians, photographs, educational activism, video specs, found art and more including a six-foot orange jumpsuited rabbit “walking the plank”.

Urban Dandy’s visit began tentatively gathering a sense of the exhibit then transformed in to an extraordinary evening. Most artists were on hand and the works are so disparate and well spaced that conversations occured naturally and even privately. It was a strange, almost organic and highly personal event that echoed each visitor’s engagement.

UD donned video-glasses throughout recording every glance and conversation including a discussion about the role of activism in education. Dancing at the art disco, discovering strangely set rooms, curtained off films and provocative installations made for a stimulating time while the banquettes, outdoor seating and even children’s paint area provided ample space and the right atmosphere to digest and rehash.

Too many individual works to cover but participating artists include: Hackney WickEd, RAX, Carl Burgess, Browse, Pure Evil, The Dark Times, Adam Dant, Le Gun, Metric Collective and Gerard Puigmal’s Escapism series amongst others. Red Gallery London successfully deliver a challenging venture transplanting a cavalcade of East End creative talents in a new milieu: the sum
of which is more than an exhibit it’s a proper one-off experience.