THE Citizen’s Advice Bureau have a stall set up in the foyer of the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, after this performance of The Collection, a bit like the hotlines that come up at the end of some TV shows – ‘if you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this play...’
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The connection is that the play tackles the highly topical theme of unsecured, high-interest personal finance debt and specifically the sharp end of the business of collecting those debts.
Powerful subject matter, and a powerhouse cast takes it on. Jimmy Chisholm excels as Bob Lawson, once the revered master of the trade, now shattered by the suicide of a female ‘client’ and struggling for redemption. Tam Dean Burn’s Billy by contrast starts out callow and uncertain before gradually succumbing to the corrupting influence of the job and particularly of David Tarkenter’s middle manager Joe Cravis – irredeemably nasty from start to finish. Caught between those three and the even more malign spectre of her debt is Pauline Turner’s Elena Malcolm.
Chisholm is great, the rest are good and there are some crackling exchanges. The topic is rich and ripe for exploring. It should all work better than it does.
While two hours of brow-beating about the insoluble, escalating misery of it all - complete with bludgeoning strapped on sexual metaphors – is probably a fair analogy for the actuality of the debt industry and its dreadful consequences for the individuals involved, it doesn’t make for all that electrifying or illuminating a bit of theatre. Maybe the Citizen’s Advice stall would be more useful beforehand – the cast is just about reason enough to go and see The Collection, but don’t go getting yourself into unsecured debt for the privilege.