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The Collector at the Coward Studio – Hampton Hill Theatre

The Collector - Dress Rehearsal
The Collector

Perhaps Miranda Grey (Rachel Burnham) might have done well to look at her privacy settings on social media: quite a lot of information was gleaned from her Facebook page by Frederick Clegg (Matt O’Toole), who has come into money by winning a substantial amount on the National Lottery. Not quite sure what to do with his wealth, he finds himself purchasing an old property in the countryside. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s what he does next that counts in The Collector, an intriguing psychological study into how one man’s instincts can have calamitous effects.

“I love you,” Clegg repeatedly tells Grey, who understandably finds it difficult to return such emotions, given the circumstances: in short, she has been abducted. That she is a victim of abduction in the modern era raises some narrative questions, especially as social media is never referred to again. There is neither landline nor mobile to speak of – the latter, even in this day and age, can be explained by the apparent remoteness of the country house, where network coverage may not extend to the property. It certainly wouldn’t, in any case, extend to the basement room where Miranda is being detained.

There probably might have been appeals on television, and encouragements to retweet a missing person poster. But such matters are not part of this story, told from Clegg’s perspective, or so Clegg tells the audience. Slightly confusingly, there are moments when Clegg is not in the room and the audience is made aware of Grey’s thought processes and actions in his absence: it’s a dual perspective play after all. As might be expected, things do not turn out all sweetness and light: not for nothing is the audience asked to remain in their seats after the curtain call while the thoroughfares are swiftly cleared of ‘fake glass’.

It doesn’t intend to, but the production gives away ideas of how to go about covering tracks following an abduction (I am led to believe the novel by John Fowles, published in 1963, has done the same): Clegg goes to London to buy items requested by Grey, physically visiting shops, paying in cash, making it difficult to trace his whereabouts. My inquiring mind couldn’t help but wonder how CCTV could possibly play a role in this scenario – again, that is somewhat secondary to the storyline that captures both the weirdness and vulnerability of Clegg, and the repeated attempts by Grey to exploit her captor’s insecurities to her advantage.

I’m not sure the incidental music did much to create a foreboding atmosphere. But at one point, Grey indulges in flattery, expressing all sorts of affirmative encouragements towards Clegg. It made me think of the comment by a school-aged contributor to an online discussion forum who thought Beauty and the Beast was a rather sweet movie until they “learnt about Stockholm Syndrome in PSHE”. There are other problems with the resetting of the show from the 1960s to the 2010s – what’s with Clegg’s repeated assertions about class differences between him and Grey? At least Grey turns her nose up at some outmoded forms of speaking on Clegg’s part.

An unsettling narrative is brought to life by a talented duo who slowly but surely build tension in a disturbing but nonetheless riveting production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Frederick Clegg became obsessed with Miranda Grey at first sight. The repressed, introverted, butterfly collector, at first merely admires the beautiful art student from afar. But then he wins the Lottery and buys a remote country house, planning to bring her there as his ‘guest’. Having abducted and imprisoned her, he soon finds the reality is far from his fantasy and their tense, claustrophobic relationship leads to a devastating climax.

Cast: Matt O’Toole, Rachel Burnham

Production Team & Crew:
Director – Sophie Hardie
Production Manager – Sarah J Carter
Set Designer – Fiona Auty
Lighting Designer – Nick Osorio
Sound Designer – John Pyle
Wardrobe – Mags Wrightson
Music – James Bedbrook
Stage Manager – Kathryn Smith
Fight Choreographer – Dane Hardie
Photography/Videography – Sarah J Carter
Artistic Link – Heather Mathew

By Mark Healy, from the novel by John Fowles
Directed by Sophie Hardie
Dates: Sun 24 Jun – Sat 30 Jun 2018


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