June 30th-July 2nd
There’s something a little out of the ordinary on offer for theatre goers this weekend when The Caxton Players present The Collector, adapted by Mark Healy from the John Fowles novel of the same name.
It’s the dark and unsettling story of Frederick, socially inept and full of resentment, who kidnaps the girl of his dreams and holds her captive in the cellar of his country house (bought with the proceeds of a lottery win). As a collector of butterflies he is familiar with the joy of reducing beautiful things into captivity and preparing them for display, but whereas in the past his subjects have not fought back all that much, he is unprepared for the fact that his latest captive is not prepared to resign herself meekly to her fate.
In a post Fritzl world in which we have witnessed the release of many domestic captives who have been held for periods of months or years the idea behind the novel seems all too possible, but the motivation of the captor here is by no means easy to ascertain.
Part victim, all monster, he’s a Caliban in a maroon tank top with a penchant for supratabular onanism, unable to control the emotional spasms which govern his behaviour. Part prude, part wannabe libertine, capable of moments of exaggerated kindness and acts of frenzied self pity, sometimes aware of his own monstrosity, sometimes seeming to believe that the situation that he has created is one that can be resolved with an outbreak of love and forgiveness.
His captive is no simple character either – vain, priggish and condescending, in this version of the story she seems to bear less responsibility for her own situation than the novel might suggest, but she’s also resourceful and resilient and it’s these qualities that enable her to survive her captivity and sometimes make life awkward for her captor.
The play traces the shifting emotional politics of a situation in which neither character is able to establish psychological control over the other, as the captive Miranda seeks to confuse and undermine the guilt stricken Frederick.
It could be a tricky proposition to stage effectively but director Nigel Stolworthy makes the most of the intimacy of the Novartis Suite to bring the audience uneasily close to the action. People often talk about breaking the fourth wall, but here the audience are actually made to feel that they are the fourth wall, part of the prison in which the characters find themselves. It’s not a comfortable feeling.
Kieron Rogers as Frederick and Chloey Rose as Miranda make the most of the opportunity to deliver restrained and intelligent performances, their relationship shifting between contempt and sympathy, from anger to something which is almost friendship and back again in a moment.
Or possibly it isn’t that at all, because at any moment there is always the possibility that one or both characters is dissembling in order to gain a physical or emotional advantage, and because this isn’t a whodunnit style thriller, there’s no big reveal at the end, so you get to make your own mind up.
Highly recommended but leave the kids at home. Either they won’t understand it and you’ll be embarrassed or they will understand it and you’ll be embarrassed.
The Collector is at the Caxton Theatre Novartis Suite from June 30th until July 2nd.
Visit www.caxtontheatre.com for further details.