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

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