Portman and Loveless show promise, but are swamped by a poor adaptation of John Fowles’ 1960’s novel.
In an improbable contrivance, Frederick Clegg, ex-Job Centre worker, (Daniel Portman, Game of Thrones) becomes obsessively interested in Miranda Grey, a beautiful Fine Art student (Lily Loveless, Skins). By winning a large sum of money he is able to get closer to her than he otherwise might hope or dream. By spending time with him, Clegg believes she might learn to love, like, or at least tolerate him. The same might be said of the time the audience spend with the play.
A stagey opening monologue from Portman directly addresses the audience and while initially disconcerting, it grows in confidence and the subsequent fourth-wall breaks are the most reassuring moments throughout the piece. Playing an actively ‘ordinary’ character presents its own challenges. His confessional tone and awkward nature are wholly believable; that is, until the play asks too much of the actors and audience in the second half. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing the second act justice. The darkening trajectory of the plot seems the result of a story that backs itself into a corner.
Loveless, while not as convincing as Portman in the first act, equally struggles in the second with a flabby and inconsistent script. She repeats herself, to no great effect and finds it hard to create nuance when the play requires such intensity from the off. For a professional debut there is a lot to like. The dancing power-play of act one with its funny, genuinely fluctuating relationship between the two leads shows her promise and versatility. However, as the second act covers similar ground and her character is shown to make some inexplicable decisions, it felt like she either lacked direction or was let down by the material.
The bubbling tension of the second act reaches a climax (which takes place in a corner of the stage, obscured to a majority of the audience), then self-indulgently continues without great interest. When Clegg changed into a black vest to symbolise a change in his character, it was the final straw.
The Collector runs at The Vaults until 28 August.