Take yourself back to 2003, turning on the news and hearing story after story of bombings and terrorism when the invasion of Iraq began in the Middle East. ‘Thousands killed in horrific attack’, etc. We hear so many stories that disturbingly, we become desensitised to hearing these terrible headlines. It’s not often that we get to see, really see, the lives and personalities of people involved in these incidents. The Collector offers a small window into this, allowing 3 characters to chronologically narrate and piece together a story about an Iraqi man called Nasir from different perceptions.
Henry Naylor’s style of writing is refreshing considering the subject matter. It is lightly sprinkled with moments of humour which not only help to break up the severity and seriousness of the issues, but also make the characters seem all the more human. Naylor’s writing bursts through the audience’s westernised comfort, particularly with the character of Zoya (Anna Riding) who is made likeable and very real. Riding’s characterisations are very enjoyable and believable.
We also hear the perspective from Kasprowicz and Foster, two Americans in the army who are there to help the Iraqi citizens. Disappointingly, the accents from time to time dip in and out of American, leading to a few oddly settling words (an example being “eck -set-tra rather than et-set-er-ah as the Americans would say”) . Olivia Beardsley uses a pace and rhythm throughout which is comparable to modern poetry but is very unsettling for this piece; taking deep breaths in the middle of sentences which interrupt the flow, it detracts from the reality of what she is saying and makes her performance seem a little self-indulgent. Had she taken bigger risks with what she was saying and wasn’t concerned with the way it was being said, this would have improved her performance.
Aside from the love interest section between Kasprowicz and Foster which is very suddenly sprung on and unnecessary to the story, the physicality between Beardsley and William Reay could have been better executed. There was a moment of stillness as they froze in the background in what was supposed to be lust and compulsion, but they weren’t even looking at each other’s faces and it seemed quite weak.
Naylor’s story highlights the reality and makes a very good point that “the real foe is inside the heart of man”. The simplistic and suggested interrogatory set design is perfect for this well told tale, and the three do well to play what is obviously a very difficult story to tell.
The Collector is playing at the Greenwich Theatre until January 21.
Photo: Sheila Burnett