The Collector

Aug 18 2016 | By More

★★☆☆☆  Puzzling

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241) Mon 15 – Sat 20 Aug 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

Despite being well acted and staged with commitment, Arkle’s The Collector at the Royal Scots Club has only limited emotional impact.

Mark Healy’s adaptation of John Fowles’s 1963 debut novel is a story about obsession and control. Awkward loner Frederick Clegg uses a windfall to buy an isolated house where he imprisons Miranda Grey, an art student he has been stalking, hoping that she will fall in love with him.

James Murray, Laura MacLeod. Photo Rob Shields

James Murray, Laura MacLeod. Photo Rob Shields

For this story to work it needs to be dark, worrying and frighteningly intense. Despite the odd updated reference (such as the lottery jackpot replacing a pools win), it is stuck firmly in the attitudes of over half a century ago in regards to gender and class. Unfortunately, other changes – CDs instead of records – mean it is stuck awkwardly between the time of the original story, the 1998 of the adaptation, and the 2016 suggested by the opening filmed insert.

Stretched out over nearly two hours without an interval, it all becomes something of a trial, despite the best efforts of the two actors. More importantly, rather than being troubling, it just seems a bit silly.

James Murray’s Clegg certainly captures a social misfit who is adept at rationalising his extreme behaviour. He manages to go beyond the collection of tics the character could easily be to provide a rounded and believable portrait; the extreme behaviour he indulges in is less easy to imagine.

Laura MacLeod is very good at suggesting Miranda’s fear. However, there are elements of the characterisation that simply do not work. This is not her fault, as the odd psychological motives of the characters are very difficult to pull off.


Dario Dalla Costa’s direction is straightforward and effective at moving the story along. The opening filmed sequence is well done; however, being set so obviously in the present day, it points up even more starkly some of the peculiar attitudes in what follows, not least the hobby that Clegg previously followed – would anyone regard catching butterflies and pinning them to a card as anything other than pathological in 2016?

The last half-hour, meanwhile, is the most coherent and convincing. Unfortunately, much of what comes in between is less effective. A more heightened, florid style might have more impact. As it is, the realism of the performances leads to to many questions of the ‘how can he…’ and ‘why can’t she…’ type.

To attempt a two-hander of this length and complexity is very brave indeed. Unfortunately it does not quite succeed.

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes
The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241), 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE
Monday 15 – Saturday 20 August 2016
Daily at 8.30 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website:
Company website:

Arkle’s early evening fringe production (opening at 6.15pm) is reviewed here: Black Comedy


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