City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Collector Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 24 August 2009

Fringe 2009: The Collector
Show details
The Vault
Vivid Theatre Company
Running time: 
Daniel Carver (director).
Rachel Scott (Miranda Grey), Mark Edwards (Frederick Clegg).

I have just escaped from a claustrophobic cellar, where a madman held an audience for 90 minutes.

We shared the basement with Frederick, butterfly collector and his abducted prize specimen, beautiful, spirited, art student, Miranda.  He has been filming her for some time, watching her every move, with the heart-in-mouth feeling of capturing a rare variety.  Not that this is about money or sex - it's all for love.

Frederick is a neat, precise, former clerk whose recent pools win has allowed him to buy a little love nest far from the madding crowd.  His introduction to an awakening Miranda is as solicitous as a country-cottage B & B owner welcoming a weary traveller.  Understandably, Miranda is a reluctant guest and a constantly changing battle of wills develops as they each make their demands - hers aimed at getting out and his at attaining her understanding.

For all his physical power Frederick is initially a figure of pathos as his more sophisticated and privileged prisoner challenges his aesthetic judgement and corrects his grammar.

While he imagines her fascinated by his collection she finds her fellow victims sad, seeing not only the specimens but also the future generations that would have come from them.  It's not a promising sign and tensions rise as his hopes of forging a relationship with her unravel and she becomes increasingly frustrated in trying to apply his skewed logic and rationalisations.  A final misjudged compromise reduces her from icon to being "like any other woman" and sees her returns to being an object of voyeurism, viewed through a lens.

At the heart of the play is the difficulty of communication over social and cultural boundaries.  At the end of the day issues of class and the values they have acquired imprison both protagonists.  While it's of its time (based on the 1963 novel by John Fowles and sensibly not updated here) the play still has relevance in a world of increasing division between the haves and have-nots.

There are captivating performances in this absorbing production.  Mark Edwards is marvellously creepy as he eyes the audience and adjusts his demeanour to "nice" with his switch-on smile.  Rachel Scott in some ways has a harder job, as Miranda is always going to appear a little stagey by comparison, but manages to pull off both poised and petrified.  When the explosive moments of rage take physical form they cause the audience to take a sharp intake of breath.

Vivid theatre indeed.

Times: ended 23 August