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Review of The Collector at The Vaults Theatre London

Daniel Portman and Lily Loveless in The Collector (c) Scott Rylander
Daniel Portman and Lily Loveless in The Collector (c) Scott Rylander

Given that the novel was originally published a generation ago, I did wonder in the few moments between entering the theatre auditorium and this stage adaptation starting how the storyline of The Collector would work if it were sent in the present day, particularly with methods of mass communication and mobile telephony. I could just imagine someone being abducted, taken some considerable distance away from home, and then later discovered by some youngster out of doors playing Pokémon Go. But that is another play for another time. Or is it? The first thing Frederick Clegg (Daniel Portman) does in the play after he sits down is take an electronic device out.

There is no need for familiarity with the novel – the play does not assume any, furnishing its audiences with an engaging, if long, prologue, explaining Frederick’s character, background details, and his obsession with Miranda Grey (Lily Loveless). She is, to put it bluntly, being held hostage in a country house – Frederick’s country house, to be precise. The play is varied in pace, as good shows ought to be, and captures the awkwardness of the situation very well: despite his meticulous planning and research, there is still so much Frederick does not know about Miranda.

The set is impressively detailed. My initial thought was, “Is he [Frederick] preparing for a siege?” If there’s any criticism to offer of the staging at all, it’s that more often than not it leaves little to the imagination. (As far as ‘criticisms’ go, I am barrel-scraping.) The sound and lighting effects are excellent throughout – if the stage was frustratingly dark for most of the show, there are very deliberate reasons for that, which I shan’t go into here, except to say it all ties in with the narrative.

With compelling performances from both actors, a series of monologues keeps the audience more informed than the other character. Just as I was beginning to think this two-hander show would be better if we had a monologue from Miranda, having heard several from Frederick already, the play came up trumps less than a minute later. It’s difficult to pin down what precisely this show is: commensurate with the producers, I would class it as a psychological thriller, though it would be potentially seen as a sad love story, or, at a stretch, a coming-of- age tale. What is clear is that the character development in both roles is significant, although unsubtle.

Some moments of dark humour contrast with the sense of intrigue and suspense, and provide some comic relief in an otherwise relentlessly fraught production. The venue, situated under Waterloo railway station, is perfect for a show of this nature. Miranda was not alone in her desire for fresh air, and her increasing frustration was all the more palpable in the stuffiness of this particular theatre. A slow burner at face value, it was already clear well before the interval hat both characters are engaged in intense mind games with the other.

I do hope this isn’t the last time these two fine actors appear on the London stage together. I was impressed with this adaptation – entire paragraphs of description in the original novel are acted out in a matter of seconds. It is hard going at times but nonetheless a worthwhile experience. This is one of those shows I didn’t enjoy, but only because I don’t suppose I was really meant to. But this is how a gritty and deep play should be: compelling from beginning to end, superbly acted and with an absorbing plotline to match.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

The Collector
by Mark Healey
Based on the novel by John Fowles

Frederick Clegg loves Miranda Grey.
Miranda Grey loves Frederick Clegg, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She has never met him, she has never spoken to him, but she will fall in love with him, Frederick will make sure of that, no matter what.

Adapted by Mark Healy from the classic novel by John Fowles, The Collector is the story of a lonely butterfly collector and his obsession with a beautiful art student. When Frederick comes into a large amount of money, he buys a deserted country house and makes preparations to accommodate a very special house guest.

The Collector is a tense, psychological, edge of the seat thriller. Will Miranda become a permanent addition to his collection or will she be able to convince him to let her fly free?

Director: Joe Hufton
Set Designer: Max Dorey
Lighting Designer: Matt Leventhall
Sound Designer: Ed Lewis

Daniel Portman
Daniel was born in Glasgow. Recent Theatre credits include Black Watch with National Theatre of Scotland and Philoctetes with Oran Mor, in Glasgow. Since 2012, Daniel has been playing Podrick Payne in HBO’s hit fantasy drama Game of Thrones. Film credits include Outcast (2009), The Angels’ Share (2012) and The Journey (2016)

Lily Loveless
Lily was born in London. TV credits include Skins, The Fades and Wallander. She will feature in the upcoming series of The Musketeers on BBC One. Film credits include Sleepyhead, Sket and Fear of Water, for which she received the Best Newcomer award at the Monaco International Film Festival. The Collector will be Lily’s professional stage debut.

2nd – 28th August 2016
Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm
Saturday Matinee 2.30pm
Sundays 4.00pm
Book tickets online


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