Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Saved is the high point (or the low point, depending upon one’s point of view) in Edward Bond’s long and prolific career of using the theater to make the British public squirm. It certainly is the play that caused him and his supporters the most public difficulty, since it was seen by many, including some theater critics, as having gone too far in exposing the emotional and moral vacuum at the heart of English working-class life. However, Bond had his supporters, including the late Sir Laurence Olivier, the most prominent British actor of the time. Olivier and others not only asserted Bond’s right to artistic freedom but also defended the theatrical quality of his work and the validity of his attack on the meaninglessness of many aspects of contemporary urban life. Bond gained renewed attention in 2001 with the New York revival of Saved. Critic Charles Isherwood, writing in Variety noted “The play’s clear-eyed observation of the interplay between need and neglect, and how people are warped by them, is as pertinent and powerful today as it was in 1965.”

Bond has continued to be an artistic gadfly. In 1971, he rewrote, or at least reinterpreted, William Shakespeare’s King Lear (pr. c. 1605-1606). He stripped the play of all vestiges of heroism and tragic exultation, claiming that the modern world had no place for sublime action but needed to see the vicious scramble for power as it really was. In his...

(The entire section is 489 words.)