Review: Saved, Lyric Hammersmith

“Yer ain’t arf nosey”

Edward Bond’s Saved caused quite the hoohah when it premiered at the Royal Court in 1965, due to its unflinching portrayal of the total disillusionment of a whole slice of society but mainly because of a highly provocative scene of [spoiler alert] a baby being stoned to death in its pram. Sean Holmes of the Lyric Hammersmith has given it a rare revival at a point in time which seems eerily prescient given the riots that were experienced across the UK this summer.

Set around a South London household in which meaningless existences are played out: Pam sleeps around with the local bad boys and neglects her unnamed baby and her parents, with whom she still lives, haven’t spoken to each other in years. When they take in a lodger who seems to offer a faint ray of light in this dull world, his decency takes a battering but ultimately shows up the corrosive effect of a world that feels dead set against them.

It felt like the kind of drama that is ‘important’ – the resonance with disaffected portions of society ringing horribly true – yet it was rather punishing as well. Not just in a running time that numbed the bum completely, but also in its bleak message about how a whole swathe of society can become disconnected and have their existence rendered so hopeless, even whilst the rest of the country continues blindly unaware.

Lia Saville’s callous Pam is well-matched by Michael Feast and Susan Brown as her warped parents and by the grim men whose company she seeks, particularly Calum Callaghan. But it is Morgan Watkins’ Len who brings a little much-needed relief to proceedings with a little comic touch and a little emotion which goes such a long way to bringing a little emotion into the inhumane world that Bond has conjured. And it is almost insufferably inhumane; the slow tightening of the screw of this claustrophobic atmosphere from which there is little real release was actually really quite difficult to watch, especially over such a long time.

Perversely then, the climactic scene that previously caused so much angst felt less troubling than the play that surrounded it. It is truly a harrowing moment but sadly part of a larger more harrowing picture thereby making Saved a most challenging watch. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but then I don’t think anyone could, but it was almost too much to bear at the same time – an intensity I don’t think I’ve experienced before and one which I am in no hurry to experience again any time soon.

Running time: 3 hours 5 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Simon Kane

Booking until 5th November

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