Violence essential to impact

Allen Hall Theatre
Thursday, June 22

Len loves Pam. Pam insists that the baby isn’t Len’s. It’s Fred’s. Fred wants nothing to do with Pam. Meanwhile Pam’s parents silently, brutally tear each other apart.

The people in Edward Bond’s Saved inhabit the bottom of the societal heap, the pointlessness of their lives only partially relieved by television, cigarettes, filthy jokes and endless cups of tea.

The play’s violence is appalling, but essential to its impact as an examination of the cumulative effects of poverty, alienation and cultural deprivation,

Miriam Noonan as Pam and Simon Anderson as Len head a stellar cast. Richard Huber plays Harry, Pam’s father, ex-military and anxious to uphold some standard of decency but thwarted by wife Mary, played by Clare Adams as an ageing version of her daughter: disputatious, blunderingly flirtatious and not at all motherly. As Fred, Daniel McClymont is all calculating, amoral insouciance. Of the minor characters, Tabitha Littlejohn impresses as Liz, a more accomplished slut than Pam can ever be. Emanuel Nolden, Cullan Rolton, Conor Hill and Thomas Downing are all distinctively offensive as Fred’s unsavoury friends.

Traverse staging seats the audience on opposite sides of the performance area so audience members can see not just the performance but the reactions of people on the other side. Expert lighting by Marty Roberts enhances mood and location, and authentic working-class ’60s costumes and props add value.

Saved was first performed in London in 1965 and provoked an uproar that led to prosecution and court proceedings. Although removed from New Zealand in space and time, it has undeniable relevance to the contemporary scene.

Even now, staging it takes courage, and production manager Jo Harford, director Andrew McKenzie and Plan D Productions, working with the University of Otago theatre studies department, are to be congratulated for this fine production. Although the humour is bleak and the violence horrifying, Saved demands to be seen.

Review by Barbara Frame