Saved Study Guide

Saved is a play written by the British playwright Edward Bond, which had its premiere at the Royal Court Theatre, a well-established London theatre, in 1965. Featuring what is still one of the most shocking scenes in the history of British theatre— the stoning to death of a new-born baby—Saved was initially refused a license by the Lord Chamberlain's Office because of a censorship law.

After a long legal battle that was finally resolved in 1968, the play proved influential in overturning and changing censorship laws in Britain more generally. One of the play's most vocal and prestigious advocates was the actor Laurence Olivier, who wrote in a letter on the play's behalf, "Saved is not a play for children but it is for grownups, and the grown-ups of this country should have the courage to look at it." In spite of some high-profile support at the time, the play was widely derided by critics and audiences, who were repelled by its unflinching depiction of human cruelty.

Rarely performed nowadays, the play last had a major run in 2011 in London. Before that, it hadn't been performed by a professional theatre group since 1985. Undoubtedly one of the most controversial plays ever written, Bond challenges the audience to look at the hardship of working-class life in 1960s London without sentiment. Bond sees the events depicted in the play as uncomfortable because they reflect something about human nature itself. In an interview about the play, he once said, "I wanted to show that we are destructive of human values...The people who are killing the baby are doing it to gain their self-respect, because they want to assert human values."