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The Collector review at the Vaults, London – ‘atmospheric if affected’

Daniel Portman and Lily Loveless in The Collector at The Vaults, London. Photo: Scott Rylander Daniel Portman and Lily Loveless in The Collector at The Vaults, London. Photo: Scott Rylander

A discomforting psychological thriller based on the novel by John Fowles, The Collector tells the story of butterfly enthusiast and first-time kidnapper Frederick, and the woman he claims to love.

Making her stage debut, Lily Loveless imbues the imprisoned Miranda with an icy emotional control, a survival tactic belied by barely-disguised restlessness as she shifts constantly from foot to foot. Daniel Portman brings a sense of bewildered, bumbling awkwardness to the role of Fredrick, at least initially. As his frustration increases, though, he drops his pretensions of decency and begins to channel some real menace. His continued pleas that Miranda – and the audience – understand his point of view gets to the heart of his delusion. “There are two sides to every story,” he whines, without showing the least empathy for his victim.

The gradually intensifying action takes place in an impressive subterranean set, designed by Max Dorey. Half chintzy drawing room, half inescapable bunker, its suite of antique furniture sits uneasily alongside industrial shelving stacked with bottled water. Transparent dust sheets shroud everything, filling the space with long shadows even as they allow fleeting glimpses of sunlight, or the suggestion of other rooms beyond the cell.

Director Joe Hufton keeps a tight – perhaps too tight – grip on proceedings, opting for crisp diction and strident movement, which only increase the sense of stiffness in Mark Healy’s starchy adaptation. Even amid shocking circumstances, there is a tense formality to the character’s interactions, and to the performance as a whole.

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Atmospheric if affected adaptation of John Fowles’ classic story of obsession and entitlement