Runs from 30 June – 23 July
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Reviewed by Chloe Allan
Protagonist Blue is a boy whose transition into manhood is disturbed by the untimely death of his father. Whilst other productions might narrowly chronicle Blue’s struggles, author Almond is singularly unique in his narration of grief. Blue seems to pour his frustration, pain and angst on to the page, creating a story and character that emulates a Jekyll and Hyde version of himself – the savage version of himself being the more feral of the two.
As Blue and The Savage intertwine, it could have proved tricky for the audience to distinguish personality actor Dean Bone is portraying; however, the subtle use of choreography (expertly composed by Lee Proud) shows Blue metamorphosing when he channels The Savage, walking on his hands and knees in an animalistic fashion. As a result, the production is subtly laced with dance, celebrating the influence of this art form throughout.
Indeed, The Savage deserves commendation for its exploration of what school councillor Mrs Molloy refers to as “the importance of art and its role in creating civilisation”. This play is testimony to this, as Blue’s writing is accompanied by his ‘illustration projects’ on to the walls of the theatre, offering an insight into Blue’s imagination.
Blue’s family, his mother and sister, also struggle with their bereavement. However, the real focus of the piece is the protagonist’s relationship with the seemingly antagonistic Hopper, Blue’s bully. At times, Hopper seems to resemble The Savage (illiterate and prone to using violence as communication) but author Almond gently strips away the character’s façade to reveal a more vulnerable boy who, ultimately, is just like Blue, only he has perhaps known less kindness, demonstrating the value of empathy.
What, however, I found most refreshing from this piece was the accurate portrayal of the writing process. Too commonly, writing is depicted as a straightforward and delicate expression; however, this is such an idealistic view. Brilliantly, what Almond does, is capture the realities, the frustrations, the mess and the inkiness that accompanies storytelling – when your thoughts outrun your pen.
Although a tale of ferocity, The Savage has an undertone of a boy’s struggle to overcome bereavement, making David Almond’s production accessible for both adults and children alike.