The Collector

CATHERINE AIREY witnesses a sad lonely caterpillar of a play butterfly into something really quite good.

Catherine Airey Corpus Playroom hannah webster holly marsden hugh wyld josef fritzl kidnap Nude Nudity the collector Theatre

Corpus Playroom, 28th February – 3rd March, 7pm, £5-6

Directed by Hannah Webster

[rating: 3/5]

As much as I love ice cream, for once I’m glad for the lack of intervals at the Playroom. If there had been a break in The Collector, I’m pretty sure the actors would have come back to an emptier theatre, which would have been a great shame. Thankfully, however, there was no opportunity for escape – we were as trapped as the unnervingly Fritzl’d Miranda in her kidnapper’s basement.

Of course, there’s always the option of sleep. Unlike Miranda, the audience don’t get given beds (bummer) but the seats are reasonably comfy, and the lighting invitingly dimmed. I won’t pretend I heard snoring from the audience, but I counted at least 10 yawns before I ran out of fingers. All I can say to those of you who did indulge in a cheeky power nap is: ‘You missed out – It got loads better. There was even (semi) nudity!’

It started off so well. Miranda (Holly Marsden) greets her captor by throwing up into a bowl. Not just retching noises and holding the bowl up to her face, but real orangey liquid and everything. Unfortunately, Marsden’s performance rapidly deteriorated. Her Miranda was, for the majority of the play, wholly unconvincing. The story really suffered in the hands of her ballsy character interpretation; it made it almost impossible to sympathise with the supposed victim.

In fact, I found myself oddly warming to captor Frederick. Hugh Wyld’s performance was certainly chilling, but rarely is he overtly frightening. Maybe I was just drawn to the variation in his voice. Especially seeing as Marsden only adopted one tone in the first half of the play: rude. Her attitude was boring, as was Wyld’s initial timidity.

Average acting did, however, finally butterfly in the end. The sudden transformation from bad play to good play was striking. In a desperate bid for freedom, Miranda dons her sexiest dress (only to take it off again), puts on some perfume (I could smell it), and attempts to seduce her gaoler. The vulnerability of both characters in this scene was sobering, and the physical fight that followed genuinely terrifying. This intensity pervaded the remainder of the play. I left the theatre feeling bad for writing ‘dull’ in my notebook.

That said, no amount of good acting could cancel out the fact that the stage management was awful. There was nothing wrong with the set; it was appropriately simple. So why was so much time was wasted between scenes? The frequent changes were often unnecessary and always irritating. Narrative and tension can be a fragile thing, and it was frustrating to see something which had taken so long to earn being ruined by something so technical. So maybe ‘dull’ wasn’t so harsh after all.