Review: The Collector
This is not the first time we’ve come across abduction literature. (No pun intended.) The eighteenth century novel perhaps began the trend of naughty masters kidnapping their buxom but virtuous […]
This is not the first time we’ve come across abduction literature. (No pun intended.) The eighteenth century novel perhaps began the trend of naughty masters kidnapping their buxom but virtuous maidservants in the hope of seduction. Indeed, abductions of this genre have flooded English literature, and England generally, for centuries. John Fowles’ Collector however does not quite fit into this category.
Frederick Clegg doesn’t want Miranda Grey’s hand in marriage, or her body. He wants something far more complicated: to be understood. Clegg is a strange man who collects butterflies and who has now collected a woman, hoping perhaps for a reaction akin to Die Antwoord’s Yolandi in ‘Enter the ninja’, (0:31). It’s not about love, or desire. It’s about class. Clegg has always been poor, and has from afar admired Grey, a typically middle-class arts student with all the airs and pretentions one might spot within this very town. (Perhaps even in the Barron theatre lobby in the heat of post-show ‘thesp’ discussion.) Clegg’s winning the lottery enables him to admire this privileged, cultured specimen up close – in his cellar. And Cara Mahoney’s and Peter Stanley’s respectively posh and common accents had been crafted to a T to emulate this.
Fortunately this was not all this cast had down to a T. Stanley was solidly impressive as Clegg. There seemed to have been a real effort to connect with his character, and his prudish squinting, his open-mouthed gawping, his creepy glare and his every awkwardly pedantic comment caused trickles of laughter from the audience. The interpretation of Grey however didn’t sit as well in the first act. The production aimed to avoid the interpretation of Clegg and Grey as a ‘romantic couple’ which the film partakes in, and this could be seen in Mahoney’s static, almost grumpy approach, a strong contrast to Samantha Eggar’s flirty Miranda. However, this low-key style seemed to flatten the tension somewhat. What you would expect from a tale of abduction is that the abductor would be the dominant and the abductee the reactionary. By definition. But what makes The Collector work is that these roles are subverted in an experimental, refreshing way. And the first half didn’t quite subvert these roles as much as I would have liked – both characters seemed reactionary.
That is, until the second half. As the plot took each unexpected turn, and the power shifted from one character to the other, Mahoney followed sharply and delivered. Post-interval, Mahoney was vibrantly angry, charismatic, a tyrant, a temptress, a victim, a bed-ridden invalid. The audience was charmed when she was fun, impassioned when she was fierce, and deeply perturbed when she was in danger. It was this extraordinary versatility on Mahoney’s part that helped make the production so chilling.
Also chilling was how the Barron had been so well-utilised. The back of the stage was kitted out as Clegg’s cellar, and was cut off from the rest of the house by a set of white curtains which opened and closed accordingly. The rest of the stage resembled each different part of Clegg’s house in turn. There were a few slow scene changes which upset the otherwise quaking tension; however, that this level of tension had been created in the first place is something which the director Katherine Weight and her cast should feel sincerely proud of.
Class has never been discussed in such a classy way. I left feeling shaken – and not just from the fear of meeting a St Andrean version of Frederick Clegg by the moonlit Kinnessburn on my way home – but because I had seen some truly provocative theatre.