Dystopian Saved still scandalises

Art & Lit Stage

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Edward Bond wrote ‘Saved’ back when economic crises and wildcat strikes were the norm, and the Beatles were all still alive and kicking. But ‘Saved’ is less about the swinging sixties and more about the swigging sixties. It portrays the cultural and moral apathy of a South East London family who are unperturbed by the brutal murder of a baby. Huddled around a tacky TV set and a sunken settee, ‘Saved’ is The Royle Family on narcotics.

The Burton Taylor is perfect for this kitchen sink realism. ‘Saved’ is a family affair, and in a space so cosy and claustrophobic, the audience becomes part of the domestic turmoil. Watching in silence, we are turned into voiceless onlookers with no power or guts to intervene. The stage was used innovatively, portraying living rooms, parks, prisons, caffs and rowing lakes with a bare minimum of props.

All of the characterisation was astounding. Lara McIvor as mother Mary in a laminated floral apron blew me away; with her exhausted gait, smacking the parquet floor with her slippers, her anguished battle-axe housewife was convincing in every way. Christopher Evans was excellent as cowed father Harry, whilst Jack Flowers as the thuggish Fred brought a visceral and seething fury that was utterly compelling. Maddy Walker, as shallow and selfish young mother Pam, and Marcus Balmer as dumb yet loyal Len, together conveyed all the innocence, individualism and destruction of teenage angst. The cast as a whole had the dynamics of their dialogue perfected, especially in sustaining tension throughout their frequent arguments.

You’d think a social commentary of a Britain fifty years ago would be difficult to get your head round: the nation of our parents’ childhood is long since dead. The realism is lost on us, there’s little to engage with, the commentary is no longer relevant…

But actually that’s what made this performance of ‘Saved’ so powerful. The message is as appropriate as ever, and it strikes a chord with the modern heart, the social atavism bleeding over across the decades. Costume made this point: no paisley prints or go-go boots, but a hotchpotch of styles from the last thirty years. The timelessness of a society both broken and bound together by apathy was communicated masterfully.

I’m from Crystal Palace; it’s a so-so place, in the backwaters of South East London suburbia. So it was unsettling how much the world of ‘Saved’ resonated with me: Crystal Palace also has a nice park with a rowing lake, a high street full of caffs, an abundance of monolithic council estates. When I watched this baby being sadistically stoned to death in its pram, Baby P and Jamie Bulger rushed to the forefront of my mind. It is precisely because the world of ‘Saved’ is still ours that this is a show not to miss.

Saved is showing at the Burton Taylor Studio until Saturday 9th November, tickets £5 for students.