There is something quite apt about the title of Edward Bond’s 'Saved'. Ever since its first performance in 1965 and subsequent censorship by the Lord Chamberlain, the play has seldom been performed, making director Jack Parlett’s efforts something of a rescue mission. Pulled forward from its 1960s setting to modern day, the performance takes a purposely discomforted audience through stark scenes of domestic tension, sexual confrontation and horrific violence.
We are introduced in the first scene to central characters Len (Gabriel Agranoff) and Pam (Tara Kearney), a pair of young London lovers whose relationship shortly dissolves. While Pam goes on to suffer the trials of young, single-motherhood, neglected by the baby’s father Fred (Ben Walsh), the audience is also moved to pity the underappreciated yet deeply sympathetic Len. The scenes of a dysfunctional working class household are of varied success but the aural assault of domestic arguments, a loud television and a screaming baby leave the audience sufficiently disturbed; the efforts at rigid, disjointed conversation often seemed too strained and overdone.
The notorious baby-stoning scene certainly made for uncomfortable viewing. This is not just as a result of the disgusting violence itself, but because we are forced to witness the baby’s uncaring father standing by, doing nothing and eventually hurling a rock himself.
Placing a 1960s script in a modern setting had its issues, not least in the strikingly anachronistic moment where the young Pam frustratedly searches for her Radio Times, to which she has a subscription. This scene is quite absurd as a result, but it brings a comic value that doesn’t detract from the performance. Harry (Chris Born), Pam’s often oblivious yet essentially kind-hearted father, also provides some comic relief to counterbalance the overarching gloom of the play. Be it through ironing a shirt, cutting a loaf of bread or simply sitting down, Born manages to make his scenes the most entertaining. Julia Kass also pulls off a particularly strong performance as wife and mother Mary whose negligence of her struggling family sadly increases throughout. In one moment of domestic argument, Mary thoroughly involves the audience as she showers both them and Harry in cold tea.
Despite several scenes where conversation becomes more rigid and slow than it perhaps should be, the performance was overall a satisfying one, and I recommend that you see Saved now, not least because it may be a long time before it is performed again.
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'Saved' is playing at the Corpus Playroom at 7pm until Saturday 25th. Get your tickets online at https://www.corpusplayroom.com/whats-on/drama/saved.aspx