1/2 Stars

A Great Narrative Lost In a Poor Adaptation ★★

The Collector
The Vaults, Waterloo

imageThe Vaults can never be anything other than atmospheric. There are different stages and different seating styles, but watching anything underneath Waterloo Station with the occasional muffled thunder of trains overhead is always thrilling. Layer on the period charms of a bar furnished from oddments of old furniture (not to mention Prosecco at a shockingly reasonable £12 a bottle) and one is altogether predisposed to enjoy oneself.
The reclaimed cinema seats in the auditorium and the ill-assorted furniture on stage contrive to maintain the positive energy. The setup of the play is intriguing, and seems especially suited to this setting – a young woman, Miranda, (Lily Loveless) is kidnapped and held hostage. As we enter the room what look like home movies are projected onto a sheet at the back of the stage – after a while one notices that these are in fact videos collated by a stalker prior to a kidnap.
So far, so good. Unfortunately, this is as good as it gets.
Frederick, the kidnapper, (Daniel Portman) starts the play by reminding us that there are two sides to every story. By the end of it, as he recaps, we don’t feel like we have really heard either side. The promising situation is not developed. The set is static – as an audience we are as trapped in the room as the victim.

imageOur only hope is in the dialogue and rapport between the characters, Frederick and Miranda – sadly, the dialogue is static and repetitive and there is little or no character development. There is no tension, sexual, dramatic or otherwise, between the characters. Nor is there any delineation of the class differences that divide the two – it is stated that Frederick worked in a Job Centre and noticed Miranda when she signed on before Art College, but in terms of accent and vocabulary the two are identical. This seems to me to be a fatal flaw for the whole production – throughout the play both characters accept that there is a gulf between them caused by class differences, but as an audience we never see it.
The play is based on the eponymous debut novel by John Fowles which was written in 1963. A movie was made in 1965, followed by a number of stage versions. One problem with this production is that it is not explicitly placed in time – the adaptation was written in 1998 by Mark Healey so one finds oneself excavating the not-so-distant past. A few examples – in Fowles’s novel the kidnapper’s wealth comes from a win on the football pools, did this really need to be changed to a lottery win? Frederick catches a cold after spending the day in London buying things for Miranda – could we not order online in 1998? The music is played on CDs so we are post vinyl, but did we not have iPods?
I would have preferred a production set when the book was written, any strangeness explicitly deriving from a setting over 50 years ago. Sexual politics also seem to me to be evidently dated, for example when Miranda explains that a man giving a woman jewellery must put it on her – sorry, what?.
This is not to say that there is nothing to enjoy here – both actors are undoubtedly talented and do their best with the material. Fans of Game of Thrones and Skins who turn up to see their heroes will not be disappointed. However we might have hoped for a better vehicle.

Simon Ward

The  Collector is on at The Vaults until August 28th

Categories: 1/2 Stars, review

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