22/06/2023 - 02/07/2023
Playwright: Edward Bond
Director: Andrew McKenzie
Producer: Jo Harford
South London, 1963.
Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Girl has an unplanned pregnancy…
Set against a backdrop of poverty, hardness, and societal neglect, Edward Bond’s ground-breaking classic is a searing examination of what happens when those of us who have little or nothing to lose are pushed into corners. Initially banned in the UK upon its release, ‘Saved’ has since been recognized as a landmark of 20th Century British theatre and has gone on to influence a whole generation of playwrights and screenwriters.
Don’t miss this rare opportunity to catch this funny, challenging, and sometimes brutal play.
CONTENT WARNING: Contains offensive language, scenes of violence and cruelty.
Dates: Thursday 22nd June – Sunday 25th June and Thursday 29th June – Sunday 2nd July.
Cost $25 waged, $15 unwaged.
Venue: Allen Hall, University of Otago
Andrew McKenzie talks to Dan Levin about the production, Radio New Zealand 18 June 2023
Starring Simon Anderson, Miriam Noonan, Richard Huber, Clare Adams, and Daniel McClymont, with Thomas Downing, Conor Hill, Emanuel Nolden, Cullan Rolton, and Tabitha Littlejohn.
Directed by Andrew McKenzie and produced by Jo Harford for Plan D Productions with THEA452 at Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago.
Thank you to Lisa Wilkie and the Dunedin City Council Creative Communities Scheme for their support.
Two Acts, one interval, 10 actors.
Violence essential to impact
Review by Barbara Frame 26th Jun 2023
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. More
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A play that still has the power to shock
Review by Alister McDonald 24th Jun 2023
Saved by Edward Bond
Presented by Plan D Productions and University of Otago Theatre Studies Department at Allen Hall Theatre
Edward Bond, who celebrated his 89th birthday a week ago, is probably the third-oldest living English dramatist of consequence. (Michael Frayn will be 90 in September, Alan Bennett turned 89 last month.) His most recently published full-length play Dea premiered in his own production in 2016 and it is clear from his personal website that he is still advising on productions, corresponding with students and scholars, and theorizing on theatre and society (and their inter-relationship).
He will always be remembered as the dramatist whose works did most to bring about the end of the Lord Chamberlain’s censorship of the English stage. After Bond refused to accept the cuts of language and content that would be required for a licence to perform Saved in public, the English Stage Company at London’s Royal Court Theatre staged it as a private club presentation, as such events were exempt from script censorship. Recognising this as the ruse that it was, the Lord Chamberlain instigated police proceedings and the ESC and its officials were successfully prosecuted on the technicality that club requirements were not being strictly enough enforced. Despite the critical condemnation which the premiere production largely received, politicians opposed to stage censorship set in train the necessary change to the law to strip the Lord Chamberlain of his powers. This finally happened in September 1968 and was marked the next day by the West End premiere of the love-rock-musical Hair, which would not have been licenced, due to its nudity and obscenity, despite its Broadway success. In the meantime, Bond’s next play, Early Morning became the last English play to be banned in toto(‘His Lordship would not permit it’ were the famous words of judgement on it). One performance at the Royal Court in March 1968 resulted in immediate police intervention. A year later, the Lord Chamberlain gone, the Royal Court celebrated with a Bond season including both Saved and Early Morning.
Bond will also be remembered as the dramatist who rivalled Shaw for providing the longest explanations of his plays in the prefaces to their published editions and as the dramatist after Brecht who elaborated the most developed theory of drama and its performance.
Dunedin has a proud history of presenting Bond’s plays. Early Morning was the first one staged in this country in a Rodney Kennedy production for OUDS in 1970. Kennedy subsequently directed The Sea at the Globe in 1976. OUDS later staged the one-act pieces Black Mass (opposing apartheid) and Passion (opposing nuclear weapons). There have also been Allen Hall Lunchtime Theatre presentations of Passion and of Bond’s play for Gay Sweatshop, Stone.
Elsewhere there were professional productions by Ian Mune of Narrow Road to the Deep North at both the Mercury and Downstage. The former theatre also staged Lear and Summer, the latter also staged The Sea, Passion and Bingo.
Saved does not appear to have ever had a fully professional production in this country. It has been previously seen in Dunedin in a fringe production by The Experimental Theatre Group and was last presented at the Globe in 1974, directed by Burt Nisbet. The current Plan D production, the first in the city for 50 years, combines professional elements (the performers playing the parents have professional credits as does the lighting designer) along with Theatre Studies student performers and director.
For readers just back from a long-term residency on Mars, Saved is the play in which a baby is stoned to death in a park by its supposed father and a group of his lumpenproletariat friends. This is simply the most pronounced of the play’s aggro-effects, as Bond came to term them, moments designed to force the spectator to seek for answers to the social problems being depicted. Almost as horrifying, the play overall is a portrait of human relations, inside and outside of formal family groupings, depicted as almost inevitably unloving and aggressive. As in early Pinter plays, characters jostle for possession of territory, objects and people. Saved’s image of sexuality is one of relationships casually embarked on and ended, with characters indifferent to the consequences for others involved (adult or infant) after they have moved on to their next partner.
That the play does still have the power to shock can be shown by the fact that at the second performance two spectators left during the stoning scene, a third at its conclusion and three others did not return after the interval which follows shortly afterwards.
We enter Allen Hall to the strains of “Waterloo Sunset”, “Living Doll”, “The Young Ones” and “In My Life”. We are in the mid-1960s, an impression confirmed by the costuming, furniture and props and, with one exception, hairstyles. But, as the director observes in his programme note, we could be in the present day. All that is missing are the ubiquitous device screens which have fueled copy-cat acts of violence (such as ram-raids) among the young around the world. Bond’s almost phonetic transcription of South London dialect, generally well-managed and sustained by the cast, locates us geographically but we could as easily be in South Auckland, South Wellington, South Christchurch or South Dunedin.
Allen Hall has been arranged for a traverse presentation (though the proscenium arch stage is also utilized). The effect of this is to accentuate the ‘in-yer-face’ nature of the play. The performers all sit on the edges of the performance space and watch proceedings in the sequences with which they are not involved. They also handle very fluidly the scenic transformations required between the play’s 13 sequences, the transitions usually being covered with original music contributed by cast member Tabitha Littlejohn which, on occasion, seems to echo the pre-show hits of the era.
The production was well-rehearsed throughout. I was particularly impressed by the handling of the stoning scene with its transitions into ever darker and more threatening action as it progresses. In some productions the stoning has been mimed; here sizeable stone props were employed and there was no escaping for the audience an awareness of what the destructive impacts would have been if there had been a child in the pram. The gang (played by Daniel McClymont, Emanuel Nolden, Cullan Rolton, Conor Hill and Thomas Downing) had all found individualised characterisations. (A pedantic question for Bond would be: ‘Why does only Fred do time for the stoning?’)
Len, on whom rests Bond’s claim that the play is ultimately optimistic about human possibility, was clearly distinguished in temperament from his peers and his adopted family by Simon Anderson. Clare Adams as Mary knew how to handle her men, be they youths in the park, the lodger to whom she is attracted, or her husband who is usually on the end of the silent treatment. Our sympathies grew for him as Richard Huber took his chances to put his character’s side of the story in the penultimate scenes. Miriam Noonan’s Pam also became more affecting as the play progressed, clearly suffering, among other issues, from what we would now recognize as post-natal depression.
While the traverse staging had undeniable strengths it also created difficulties. The most pronounced was audibility. Allen Hall is a surprisingly cavernous space and performers need to remember when working in the round or the traverse that there are spectators behind them and boost their projection accordingly. The difficult business with the kettle in which Mary injures her husband is harder to fake with an audience only a metre away. Given the production’s staging feature of off-stage performers watching the action (presumably picking up on the textual references to voyeurism) I thought it was odd that we did not see Len watching the stoning, as we learn later that he has. (This may just have been a sight-line matter from my seat in the house.)
I also think the text is verbally funnier than it played. The second-night audience was a modest one but large enough to generate open laughter if it had been prompted. The key is almost certainly in the timing. I suspect the performers were so intent on holding the accent that they could not relax into the lines and give the audience time to respond fully to the characters’ verbal wit (or filth).
Director Andrew McKenzie has served Bond and the play well. It was a treat to see a former Allen Hall student director look beyond the high-rotate post-modern authorial figures like Crimp and Churchill or the superficially absurd appeal of the Absurdists and tackle a major, difficult full-length work from an earlier era. In the neo-liberal 21st century there may be fewer spectators who would concur with the anarcho-Marxist answers which Bond offers in some of his later plays but it cannot be denied that Saved continues to raise compelling questions for spectators and society about the ultimate causes of violence, questions which deserve and demand answers.
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