Based on the Novel by John Fowles
Adapted for the Stage by Mark Healy
Directed by Jonathan Rigby
Frederick Clegg – Laurence Brown
Miranda Grey – Rachael Hewer
The Collector is a novel written by John Fowles, adapted by Mark Healy.
Ever since he first saw her, Frederick Clegg has been obsessed with Miranda Grey. The repressed, introverted butterfly collector admires the beautiful, privileged art student from afar until he wins the Lottery and buys a remote country house, planning to bring her there as his ‘guest’. Having abducted and imprisoned her in the cellar he soon finds the reality is far from his fantasy and their tense, claustrophobic relationship leads to a devastating climax.
The Collector opened at Louth Riverhead Theatre in April 2008 and transferred to The Etcetera Theatre in London in May 2008.
‘What the papers say…’
Londonist, May 2008
Cellars are this season’s must have for the budding psychopath as the horrific Fritzl story shows so it’s a creepy coincidence that John Fowles’ play “The Collector” should be running at the Etcetera Theatre this week.
This two hander works claustrophobically well in “London’s smallest theatre”. Frederick is a man lacking in social skills and advantages who wins the lottery. He’s a repressed lepidopterist nurturing a random and unhealthy infatuation with a vibrant, young, artistic girl, Miranda who has all the passion, beauty, sophistication and privileges he lacks. His financial windfall enables him to collect Miranda with the help of a little chloroform and imprison her in the cellar of a remote cottage he has acquired for this purpose in an attempt to make her love him and live with him.
Frederick is almost a figure of pathos at the outset with Miranda his adored idol, albeit under his lock and key. But the play becomes ever more chilling as Miranda’s attempts to manipulate and escape him fail and his mental state unravels in proportion to his frustration and inability to ‘have’ Miranda as he ‘has’ his (dead) butterflies. Do not expect a happy ending.
This is an intensely dramatic hour and 20 minute performance with (distressingly) strong performances from Laurence Brown and Rachel Hewer who somehow manage to inject some dark humour into this discomfiting play. Eight quid well spent and food for thought for potential cellar owning psychos.
CELLAR’S MARKET AT THE RIVERHEAD
Bad timing, really. News broke over the weekend of the perverted Austrian who imprisoned his 17-year-old daughter in a cellar for 24 years, raping her on a regular basis and fathering seven children. Horrific stuff, indeed. Had the story broken a week earlier, we might have had a full house in the main auditorium for Hambledon’s latest offering, THE COLLECTOR. The full house it really merited.
Based on the John Fowles novel of the same name, Mark Healy’s adaptation chilled the Riverhead audience with its dank tale of the abduction and imprisonment of Miranda (Rachael Hewer) by the geeky but deranged obsessive Clegg (Laurence Brown). Sexy and vivacious, the London art student has been stalked for weeks by the Lottery winner until he makes his move with a dodgy story about a puppy and the aid of a little chloroform. Virtually all the action unfolds within the confines of a cellar of a remote cottage.
There are no easy roles in this production. It’s a two-hander and both Rachael Hewer and Laurence Brown have to be at the top of their game. Fortunately, they are.
From our first sighting of the pop-eyed Clegg, his body hinting at a deformity caused by repression rather than injury, we know we have no ordinary Lottery winner here. And it’s a demanding physicality Clegg has to sustain for a full hour and a half. Like Miranda, he’s barely offstage for more than a few seconds; there’s no respite. His vocal delivery, similarly – perfect diction in a clipped, mechanical style, like the clacking of an antique typewriter – effectively informs the audience what an emotionally stunted wacko we’re dealing with.
He’s a collector of butterflies, captured, pinned, meticulously labelled and displayed and in Miranda he has made a significant addition to his collection. Rachael Hewer plays this difficult role with subtlety and intelligence, laying out the range of physical and psychological stages an abductee must pass through: rage, subterfuge, ‘befriending’ the captor, loss of hope.
It is very much to the director’s credit (Jonathan Rigby) that what was very much a novel and film (Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar) of the 1960s was transformed into a performance wholly relevant to the world we inhabit today. It was pacy and compelling. In large part, this was due to Rigby’s prudent staging choices which allowed for continuous action between scenes and the lack of an intrusive stage crew – the cast made swift, discreet adjustments of set and properties, ensuring the tension never flagged.
Unchained superlatives, then, for a brave choice by this vibrant local company and the excellent support afforded by the Riverhead.
Rick Dring, LOUTH LEADER 30 April 2008
HAUNTING PLAY TAKES YOU TO A DARK PLACE
It’s not often that a play actually has me on the edge of my seat in anticipation. But The Collector, a thriller by Hambledon Productions at Louth’s Riverhead Theatre, did just that.
The play tells the story of Frederick, a lonely butterfly collector who decides to ‘collect’ an art student called Miranda, whom he has been stalking for some time. The entire play is based in the cellar of Frederick’s Suffolk home, where he keeps Miranda (played by Rachael Hewer) locked up.
The play was a raw and uncensored depiction of John Fowles’ well-known novel – with colourful language to boot. Frederick (played by Laurence Brown) took on the kind of calm-crazy that stays in your head long after the play was over. I honestly found it hard to look directly at him on stage for fear he would see me! Meanwhile, Miranda’s growing despair infiltrated the audience, as you watch her deterioration from a fighter to a defeated soul.
The simple set cleverly used lighting to stand for the outside world and, ultimately, hope when, every so often, Miranda gets a glimpse of daylight. Other aspects were a bit too realistic for my liking though. Perhaps I’m just squeamish, but I don’t need to see someone spitting out brown water to imagine vomiting.
The acting was faultless though. The characters were three-dimensional and the monologues to the audience were haunting and insightful.
A particularly chilling moment came when Frederick told the audience he never intended to release her after a month – and pulls a bottle of chloroform from his pocket. The scene that follows was the highlight of the show for me. The struggle between Miranda and Frederick as he goes to kill her was as fraught and exciting as a Hollywood-esque climax.
Despite this, it ends on a creepy cliff-hanger as a projection screen shows a new girl, a school pupil.
Louise Eccles, GRIMSBY TELEGRAPH 29 April 2008
THE COLLECTOR * * * * FOUR STARS * * * *
This play is a dramatisation of a novel written by John Fowles in the early 1960s, an author later better known for THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN.
Hambledon Productions will shortly be presenting the play in London but, in a dry run, they have opted to stage their premiere in Louth. It features Rachael Hewer and Laurence Brown under the direction of Jonathan Rigby who himself is no stranger to the West End stage.
Frederick Clegg is one of those insignificant little men who go through life largely unnoticed and tend to live within their own insular world, often developing passionate but obscure interests. In this instance, he is a collector of butterflies but harbours an unhealthy attraction for Miranda, a young art student with whom he becomes obsessed, but from a distance, for he recognises that she is beyond his reach. That is, until a Lottery win provides him with the opportunity to indulge in his fantasy, and he abducts Miranda and imprisons her in the cellar of a remote country house that he is now able to afford.
We, the audience, alternate between being spectators looking in on this incarceration over a period of two months or so, and representing the lens of a camera into which Clegg delivers his monologues, explaining and justifying his actions. It is a gripping story and we follow the changing relationship between these two individuals; one moment the atmosphere is tense and threatening and the next they are behaving as though they are an old married couple, and yet the rawness of their insecurities is never far from the surface. This may be drama but of course we know it’s not that removed from the real world and, as in life, sadly there is a disturbing outcome.
This could so easily have gone wrong. To stage a play that is wholly dependent upon the portrayal of just two characters places great demands upon the actors. They must be in harmony and perform as an extension of each other whilst bringing their characters to life in such a way that we are seduced into forgetting that they are acting. In this, Rachael and Laurence deserve congratulations for their partnership on stage was a triumph and they should be proud of their achievement. Rachael introduced us to the full range of Miranda’s emotions, from terror to despair and anger to fleeting moments of hope. Meanwhile, Laurence exposed us to Frederick’s innocence and naïveté whilst also taking us to the deeper dark recesses of his mind.
THE COLLECTOR is a serious play that deals with a difficult subject, although there are occasional bursts of humour. Entertainment is a broad church and, from time to time, this should include drama that provokes and prompts us to engage our brains and think. I commend Hambledon Productions for introducing something to us that does exactly that.
Trevor Ekins, COMPASS FM 25 April 2008