Tam Dean Burn and Jimmy Chisholm star in Mike Cullen revival The Collection
The new production is directed by Michael Emans, and also stars Pauline Turner and David Tarkenter
The Collection is, sadly, a timely revival. Mike Cullen’s play has shades of Henry Miller’s Death of a Salesman in its study of a man who sees the emptiness of his profession and David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross in the sharp, vulgar banter between men, yet its enduring relevance is emphasised by the presence of the Citizens Advice Bureau in the Tron’s foyer. A play about debt, and its social and emotional impact, is perhaps even more relevant now than when it was first performed in 1995.
Director Michael Emans has assembled a cast that includes two legends of Scottish theatre – Tam Dean Burn and Jimmy Chisholm – and the conflict between their characters provides The Collection’s dramatic tension. Lawson (Chisholm) has lost his edge as a debt-collector, while Shaw (Burn) is slowly being seduced into an immoral world by the quick-talking boss (David Tarkenter).
The sparse set, and the three actors’ solid performances, reveal Cullen’s simple tragic structure. While none of the characters are sympathetic – even Lawson’s recognition of his own guilt is tainted by vicious behaviour – Cullen exposes how the brutality of their world corrupts both victim and predator. The office banter of the three men – all macho survivalism and arrogant lechery – is contrasted with the desperation of the female debtor (Pauline Turner), who finds herself reduced to despair and useless aggression in her attempts to escape the cycle of debt.
Lawson’s attempts to resolve the problems only draw him deeper into the darkness, and the abrupt shifts of mood in the second act lend the production a gloomy fatalism. Rapture’s revival offers no surprises, but present a well-made play in a measured, intense version that is unflinching in its portrayal of a real horror.
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Thu 19 Sep; Traverse, Edinburgh Fri 20–Sat 21 Sep; Eastwood Theatre, Giffnock Sat 28 Sep.