Lia Saville is the bright young thing taking to the stage to illuminate the dark and brutal reality of the disaffected British youth – a subject dominating contemporary playwriting, as well as recent political and social debate.
Acting in bold and powerful productions including Dennis Kelly’s ‘Osama the Hero’ and Simon Stephens’ ‘Herons and Country Music’, Lia’s tireless energy is now focused on something even more hard-hitting, as she stars in Sean Holmes’ upcoming production of Edward Bond’s infamous play, ‘Saved.’ Originally produced at the Royal Court Theatre in 1965, it initially received heavy censorship, provoking Laurence Olivier himself to plead for audiences to show ‘the courage’ to watch it. In the face of such a controversial and volatile history, Lia talks to i-D online about a play which, all over again, promises to incite its mixed share of outrage and adoration.
How are rehearsals going? They’re going well this week, last week we were just getting the feel of the play – that was quite a stressful time because you’re realising a lot about your character. Mine is quite an emotional character so it’s a lot to take om. But this week I felt a lot better and more comfortable.
You’ve been in some of the greatest premieres of new playwriting in recent years. Do you think British playwriting is striving to reflect what’s going on with people on the street? Yeah I definitely do. All those plays were a while ago. When I did Herons it very much had the feeling of real life situations, often quite intense; the boy (the main character) gets raped. Behind all that hardship and emotion there is a sense of wanting to get out and get a better life for themselves. I do think though that, of course, these are dramatisations, specifically designed for an audience.
What’s it been like working on such an emotionally intense and demanding play as Saved? You would think that the play was intense and demanding and sad and shocking and everything but actually there’s some funny bits as you’re reading it. And the way Sean has cast it there is a comical side to it. And everyone thinks it’s all over-emotional but there are bits in it which are amusing and funny and light. Although of course the play is hard-hitting, there are some…nice parts to it as well.
Edward Bond has described the ending as ‘almost irresponsibly optimistic.’ Do you see it that way? I do. We’ve gone through every scene now and spoke about it. My character Pam especially goes through so much. You see so much of her life and she comes out the other side. Edward Bond couldn’t have finished a play any better; the final scene, with the total silence just movement – it just makes perfect sense. After everything there’s still hope. People still go on. It’s a fantastic play it really is – the more I read through it. You have to come see it.
Is it hard to remake such an infamous and influential play? We’ve only been rehearsing two weeks – there’s ideas flying about. It’s Sean’s vision – what he sees the play to be. People have to come see it to answer that question for themselves.
How is it working with Sean Holmes? He’s so lovely. Even in casting he puts you at ease. He’s an amazing director, he’s so talented and he loves the play, which makes it even easier for him to express what he wants from us. When we see his love and passion it’s hard not to feel it as well. I feed off it.
Do you think ‘Saved,’ which explores the cultural poverty and frustration of a generation of young people, has more meaning in the current climate of the London Riots and the Arab Spring? It’s a tough question. It’s just a great play. People may feel it has some relevance. But I think it has resonance whatever time it is put on. It’s such a strong play whenever.
Saved runs at the Lyric Hammersmith in October, pop here for more information and to scoop some tickets!
Text: William Severs
Photography: Dan Burn-Forti