Tag Archives: Mark Healy

“The Collector” at The Vaults

It’s unfortunate for Mark Healy, the adapter of John Fowles’ gripping novel, that this reviewer, on top of his homework, is so fresh from reading the book. The story, of a lottery winner who kidnaps an art student he is long obsessed with, is still great and the acting here is strong, but while all the mechanics are present and correct the magic is missing.

A tough job for sure, the novel consists of long diaries, from both parties, showing different sides of the same event. Healy mashes the two together so the play is more conventional. It’s clear what’s going on and it’s a tense affair but a lack of ambition makes the characters flatter and the show is slowed by some fussy touches from director Joe Hufton and an incongruously cluttered set.

The plot is still strong enough to grip and leading man Daniel Portman has a star role to boast about. Not exactly well cast (that’s a compliment) he embodies the kidnapper Frederick’s peculiarities perfectly. There are moments of sexual repression here but that’s not Fowles’ focus and Portman constructs a boundary around these, showing us the “gentle force” he uses, which is much more frightening. We’re kept guessing about the depths of his insanity. Portman’s nuanced depiction drives the show.

His victim, played by Lily Loveless, suffers more from the inevitable editing but still presents a well-rounded character and is great in more emotional scenes. Awkward moments aren’t of Loveless’ making. Abandoning the original early 60s setting, there’s an iPhone and Fowles’ musical references are ignored, an obsession with class becomes jarring: inconsistent, incoherent and frankly odd. It’s as if Frederick has kidnapped a hipster and never had access to the Internet – we know he’s mad but both character’s here are adrift in time. The clash of cultures that should provide most of the motivation is lost. If Healy wanted to update, fair enough, but a more radical approach would have been necessary.

Until 28 August 2016


Photo by Scott Rylander

“Mathematics of the Heart” at Theatre 503

There’s a lot of common sense in Kefi Chadwick’s play The Mathematics of the Heart, now running at Theatre 503 in Battersea. Paul, a middle-aged maths professor, loves order and seeks to predict what will happen. Chadwick reminds us that the world isn’t like that.

Disrupted by his father’s death and the arrival of an odd bequest – a pre-packed sailing boat – Paul’s relationships with his new student, his errant brother and his long suffering fiancée come adrift. Fortunately, Chadwick and the cast are thoroughly in control.

Bella Heesom is arresting as the young student and Isabel Pollen gives a stunning performance as the fiancée constantly in waiting. Pollen’s character is a cold fish, which makes her well-observed and emotional performance all the more remarkable.

But the heart of the play is a fascinating sibling relationship. Mark Healy is terrific in the lead and Mark Cameron is given a superb role as his brother Chancer. The ego-driven, self-appointed moniker is indicative of this obnoxious but funny, free spirit (there’s a touch of Gloria Swanson about him – the many rock groups he has joined haven’t sacked him, “I always leave first!”). Chancer and Paul are diametrically opposed, artfully described as double pendulums: starting out together but now swinging at different velocities and, frighteningly for Paul, at unpredictable speeds.

Chadwick doesn’t plumb the depths of a connection between maths and art – for academic simply read emotionally dysfunctional. Director Donnacadh O’Briain provides a nice take on the mechanics of theatre, though, with the cast making open demands on the sound and lighting and some very sweet audience participation. It is a shame that O’Briain allows Theatre 503’s intimacy to become a problem, with far too much action occurring in the aisle. Take care to sit at the back and away from the steps as it would be a pity to miss anything about this well crafted, accessible and appealingly modest play.


Until 3 March 2012

Photo by Simon Kane

Written 10 February 2012 for The London Magazine