Review: The Collector (★★★★★)

5 stars

The Collector ended SUTCo’s season in a viscerally exciting and gracefully engaging way. With the best use of the Alternate Venue seen to date, it took a 60’s script, modernised it and even elevated it beyond its original vision. Its shows like this that make you realise why you loved theatre in the first place and why it is so vital to visit old texts and ensure they connect with new audiences.

The Collector tells the story of a lonesome man, Fredrick, as he wins the lottery. Although Fredrick collects butterflies, he’s always had his eyes set on something else. After buying a cottage in the countryside, he kidnaps a young girl called Miranda, not as an attempt to rape or murder her, but rather as an attempt to get to know her.As unusual as the motivation may seem, it speaks volumes about the character of Fredrick. Being less educated than Miranda, he struggles to express his reasoning and thoughts, which leads to huge frustration and impatience from Miranda.

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What’s special about this rendition of The Collector was that the 2 characters were performed by 4 people. From the very beginning, it became clear that one actor was Fredrick’s inner monologue, saying the things that Fredrick wouldn’t say aloud. Tom Rigby did a fantastic job of making Fredrick’s delusion transparent to his more sinister thoughts. Whereas Aiden Kidder brings a much more tender and misguided individual to the stage, one that really makes you question yourself. Although he has indeed kidnapped Miranda, you start the show off only in the basement. After a while you start to forget the he has actually stolen her; his hospitality and admiration are consistently attacked by Miranda, leading to him becoming, oddly, sympathetic.

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Miranda, on the other hand, exudes confidence and intellect. Brought to life beautifully by Becky Gordon, you really see the rollercoaster of emotions that Miranda goes through. Consistently trying to work out Fredrick’s real motivations as well as battling with him to express himself so that she can understand the situation with greater clarity. Miranda’s consistent attempts to trick Fredrick into escaping, and towards to end, getting him to purchase expensive possessions for her, makes the audience see her in a brattish and spoilt manner. Although the true villain is Fredrick, the show wonderfully subverts that by taking your attention away from the past and focussing on their relationship in the moment.

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Despite the character split for Fredrick being very clear, the same cannot be said for Miranda. We see two girls charge places as Miranda throughout the show and their connection was very unclear. Becky Gordon’s Miranda seemed much more pleasant and cheery at parts, despite the circumstances, whereas Beth Dawson’s Miranda came off as a much more snappy and sarcastic individual. At the end of the show, after Fredrick accidently kills Miranda, he addresses the audience stating that next time he will do things differently. It’s at this moment you realise that both of these actresses are not actually playing the same character. This truly blew me away as the director Maddison Bean has taken the script and completely elevated it in a graceful and clever way. Beth’s subtitle subversion from the character that Becky played was suddenly amplified after this reveal, making the performance more unique.

The venue of Theatre Delicatessen complimented the piece so well. Being brought through an abondoned Woolworths and down into a cold stuffy basement only made us feel and experience what Miranda did. Throughout the show, the actors would move between different sections of the basement making the show very interactive. What made this stand out was that between the basement and the dining room, small scenes were held in the corridors making the progression to another stage feel incredibly organic. Also, by being in the same large room, you really got a sense of entrapment; every room looked and felt the same regardless of where it was in the countryside house. Even though the show was very naturalistic, the minimalist set made the rooms feel distant, empty and hollow; personifying the relationship between Miranda and Fredrick.

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There’s not really much more that can be said. The Collector was an outstanding production and one that really blew me away. Its clever use of subversion and character dynamics not only gave the play an uneasy edge but also made me leave feeling that about myself. A true showcase of the potential for alternative venue theatre and an absolute cracking end to the SUTCo year.

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