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Saved - Edward Bond

Fortuitously, I was able to get a ticket to see the last matinee performance of Edward Bond's play, Saved, at the Hammersmith Lyric. I first read the play text in 2004 and it left a strong impression - a baby being stoned in its pram in a scene of tormentingly rising violence and hatred had a lot to do with it. I felt that the vitriol the young men aimed at the infant was because it represented how they saw themselves: powerless, pitiable, pathetic. These south London 'youths' were disaffected, disengaged, and despicable. Pam, the daughter of parents who are in a long-term war of loaded silence, and the mother of the 'stoned' child, is suffering from either severe post-natal depression or a more complex, structuralist set of conditions and causes. I'm assuming the latter given Bond's leanings. As without, so within. The father, who speaks not a word until a good hour into this three hour play, is renowned stage actor Michael Feast. Yet to single one actor out would be unfair because the acting - especially from Calum Callaghan, who plays Len, who sees more than the others (literally too in that he witnesses the stoning of the baby). His facial expressions spoke loudly his states of being in such a dramatic, yet credible way. He had the 'sarf Londoner' to a tee.

What was also deeply engaging about this work was the dialogue - there was a quick-fired lyricism in the delivery of non-sequiturs and banters that was redolent of the stereotypical acerbic Liverpudlian humour. And the working-class linguistic cliches came thick and fast, which implies both the shared language, and their inability to think in a way that would let them use their own words instead of relying on shorthands.

It is, as critics have already been quick to pounce on, relevant for our times - Baby P, the opportunism of the August riots... One woman in the front row walked out.

This is an important play - not, for me about the suspect cause of 'original sin', which some of the Tory newspaper critics attributed it to - but because it is still shocking. Yet this is the play that, during its debut run at the Royal Court Theatre, was largely responsible for the abolition of theatre censorship. Bond, now 76 and long since a resident of Paris where he is considered in a light of greater esteem, is still as leftist, still as angry, still as sharp as he was all those years ago if recent interviews are anything to go by. I hope he stays that way for a long time to come.

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