When I was given the prewarning that I should be cautious when reading Edward Bond’s play Saved, which premiered in November 1965, I did not think I could be about to read anything that would be that bad. I was wrong. Saved the single most dreadful play that I have ever read, and although I dislike sounding that extreme, it is the truth. I came away wishing that I had never read it: which is a reaction that I have never encountered before.
The play is set in London during the 1960s, and it focuses around a group of dissolute youths and their struggle growing up bored and unmotivated on council estates. The theme in itself is an interesting topic, and so much could have been done with it, but I feel as though Bond just let his imagination run too wild, and it led to disaster.
The first thing that confused me as I begun reading was the sheer amount of character description and stage direction at the beginning of the play, most of which then turned out to be wholly irrelevant. I was always taught that the dialogue is the main focus of a play, and that stage directions should only be used to supplement. Bond seems to have a different idea. On top of the copious amounts of description, there is also the addition of an author’s note, which I thought was highly unusual for a play. But I read it, and I must admit that I was intrigued about what Bond had to say about his own work. I was excited to read it, in fact.
As I began reading the opening scene, I was instantly struck by the use of phonetics and dialect. Being from London myself, I will admit that the dialogue irritated me highly, but I understood Bond’s use of it and I did feel that it added something to the scenes and the characters. The first scene is important in introducing Len, the loosely-termed ‘main character’, and showing you several facets of his personality that come to be significant later on in the narrative. Whilst I cannot say that I particularly enjoyed the opening scene, I at least understood its relevance and how it was setting up for the rest of the play. The same cannot be said for the other scenes.
I disliked every single character, which I believe is probably the point, but I could not read any of the scenes without being at least mildly offended. The majority of the play is incredibly misogynistic, there are a number of homophobic comments, but even that is nothing compared to the scene where Pam’s baby is murdered. I cannot describe the full impact of this scene, I do not possess the vocabulary to describe just how disgusting, offensive and deeply upsetting the scene is. Reading it made me feel intensely nauseous and emotional, and I cannot even say that the scene had a ‘point’. It is all treated incredibly callously and I regret reading it.
The whole play is just centred around arguments and mindless, pointless violence. I would not like to see it on stage, even reading it gave me a headache. All of the characters are selfish and shallow and nobody cares about anything. Even the ending – which I had foolishly hoped would go some way to explaining just why everything had happened – seemed to give little consolation for the traumas and atrocities that had come before. The final scene is made up of only one line of aimless dialogue, in amongst about 90 lines of stage directions. It is awful.
In conclusion, I think I do not need to state that I did not enjoy reading this play. I did try throughout my reading to attribute some positives to the experience, but I honestly found it so difficult. I would certainly not recommend this to anybody, especially not anybody with a heart or even the tiniest faith in humanity.