Based on John Fowles’ novel The Collector, Mark Healy’s new play brings to the stage the classic thriller in a more updated setting. While the story is gripping, and the set is beautifully put together, the lengthiness of the performance prolongs the discomfort caused by the characters, creating an unexciting conclusion for an otherwise entertaining play.
Frederick (Daniel Portman) is a butterfly collector, obsessively collating the beasts for his own pleasure. When he wins the lottery, his obsession reaches an ultimate level. Instead of wasting his time at the job centre, he uses his money to buy a cottage and convert the basement into a special guestroom – one for his new obsession, Miranda (Lily Loveless). Once kidnapped, Miranda realises using force is useless again Frederick, and instead sttempts to appeal to his emotional side, his obsessive, “loving” character. But in the end, Miranda turns into just another of Frederick’s collected specimens – a beautiful, lifeless butterfly.
Portman’s Frederick is sinister yet there are aspects to his character that makes him pitiful. He craves the attention of Miranda, yet is aware that his background limits his abilities to speak to her. When he speaks, he directs his speech to the audience, drawing everyone in. His sincerity and soft-spoken demeanor allows the audience to overlook his immoral actions at the start. Healy uses Miranda’s diary as a vessel for her to tell the audience her inner emotions. She describes how frightened she is of being in the grasps of her captor, and how she now has a different perspective on life. But on stage Loveless is unable to passionately express these feelings. The act of her kidnapping and the state she is in is horrific, yet it is hard to like and tolerate her character. Portman on the other hand managers to get the audience onto his side. His unintentional humour and sympathetic character makes Frederick endearing, and it is easy to hope he makes a reciprocal connection with the woman he is in love with. But this feeling stops towards the end of the play when things get violent and physically threatening.
The set is very well put together by Max Dorey, who uses the space to epitomise Miranda’s claustrophobia. The antique-looking furniture shoved to the sides of the stage, is contrasted by the shelves at the back stocked with bottled water, Diet Coke, and toothbrushes, creating an uneasy atmosphere. This discomfort is represented by Joe Hufton’s direction, which is static and uncomfortable, and therefore mirrors Miranda’s desire to leave. The action however does go on for too long, and the pace towards the conclusion slows down instead of being more energetic. Consequently, the ending does not have an intense impact as perhaps it could have. The first half of Healy’s play is engaging, and Portman’s Frederick is a delight to watch, but it is the underplayed and insignificant finale that lets down The Collector.
The Collector is at The Vaults Theatre until 28th August.