BELLA BARTOCK found herself stalking a stalker at the beginning of the Spread Eagle Theatre’s summer season
He seemed like such a nice boy at first. Quiet, polite, attentive. And loaded, too, after that big win on the Lottery.
We ought to have known he was a wrong ‘un when we heard his name was Clegg. And those glasses: they were last seen when Dickie Attenborough was playing John Christie in 10 Rillington Place.
And The Collector, the opening play of the summer season at Croydon’s newest theatre, the Spread Eagle, ought to have had all of the claustrophobic menace of Rillington Place. Certainly the first scene, in which Frederick Clegg, played as a stuttering social misfit by Ben Mannings, all slicked-back hair, buttoned-up shirt and Specsaver glasses, gave the packed audience the creeps as he watched the object of his warped desire, Miranda, on videos that he had recorded secretly.
And there, in a corner of the cellar of the isolated country cottage Clegg had bought with his Lottery fortune, was Miranda, played by Mollie Fyfe Taylor, who made a spectacular “entrance” to the piece with a spot of projectile vomiting…
Some of the audience were on their feet almost from the start, but not to dodge the “vomit”, and nor for a standing ovation. They were forced to stand just to see clearly, because of the studio theatre’s low stage. It may be something that the promoters will need to look at if they are to continue to have sell-out audiences, and if directors insist on staging so many key parts of key scenes either on the floor or on low-slung beds.
From Fyfe Taylor’s entrance until the start of the second act, the two-handed play somehow lost the sense of tension that it really needed. The play was directed by Fyfe Taylor, and while it must have been obvious to everyone that this could not end well, she played the part of the kidnapped Miranda as someone all too kindly disposed towards her captor. Tellingly, in this production Mannings’ menace only really returned when he was left alone on the stage in the closing scene.
The Collector is a play by Mark Healy, adapted from John “French Lieutentant’s Woman” Fowles’ debut novel. There have been numerous previous adaptations, all of which depend on the premise established by Alexander Pope of [SPOILER ALERT] “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?” The Collector provides something of an answer to that question, and it has little to do with Paul Weller.
The Spread Eagle’s summer season is somewhat different to previous runs, this time offering one-off performances mindful of this being a World Cup summer and the difficulty facing performers on nights when England games are on the telly downstairs.
The season continues on Friday, May 23, with a preview performance of Songs From The Ledge ahead of a full-length premiere at the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham later this year. Amy Kakoura plays the fictional, troubled blues singer (is there any other sort?) Maria Lynwood.
June 7 offers An Improvised Murder. In central Croydon. On a Saturday night. Seriously. You’d think it wouldn’t be a laughing matter…
According to the preview sheets, the Foghorn Improv Company offers “a night of stories, laughter, games… and death”, performing with no script and no plot, and lots of audience participation. This might just be sort of performance perfectly suited to the Spread Eagle’s bar-room space.
Given the success of previous Gothic productions at the Spread Eagle, so should be Warnings To The Curious: The Ghost Stories of MR James from a company called Don’t Go Into The Cellar who offer “Victorian theatre with bite” in Croydon on June 27.
Once the football fest is over, it is almost back to normal for the Spread Eagle, with Geoff Thompson’s Fragile, starring Nigel Francis, being given a three-night run, from July 24 to 26.
Tickets for all performances are always terrific value at £10. But with so few dates available over the next few months, make sure that you book promptly to avoid missing out.
- The online box office is www.oxboffice.com
- Or call 0845 680 1926
- The Spread Eagle’s website is www.spreadeaglecroydon.co.uk/theatre
Coming to Croydon
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood – a place of change, May 15
- David Lean Cinema: The Invisible Woman, May 15
- Broad Green local election hustings, May 15
- Coulsdon West local election hustings, May 16
- Mrs McMoon and Signor Baffo at Stanley Halls, May 17
- Croydon RFC charity memorial day, May 17
- Warehouse International Palywriting Festival, May 17-18
- Riverside Animal Centre Open Day, May 18
- Coulsdon East local election hustings, May 19
- St Giles’ primary school open morning, May 21
- David Lean Cinema: The Rocket, May 22
- Greek Myths: stories and mask-making, May 27
- Howard Marks: Scholar, Smuggler, Prisoner, Scribe, May 29
- David Lean Cinema: Dallas Buyers Club, May 29
- Tales from Ancient Greece, Upper Norwood Library, May 29
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, May 31
- Stitch Pitch quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, June 2
- Croydon Tech City “summit”, June 6
- Lakes Playground Action Group fun day, June 14
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, June 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Classic Car Show at Purley Rotary Fields, June 22
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- South Norwood Allotments open day, June 28
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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