Writer: Henry Naylor
Director: Ellie Hurt
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
Military experts say that no plan stands contact with the enemy. When you invade a country, in this case, Iraq, the greatest enemy can be your ill-conceived notions about the people you are liberating.
The Collector tells the tale of Nassir, one of the many people who worked as an interpreter for the Americans in 2003. His world is mainly seen through the eyes of his girlfriend, a collector of music CDs. Henry Naylor’s script weaves a complex web of divided loyalties, prejudiced ideas and the desire to survive in the shifting sands of an uncertain political landscape.
At first when Nassir joins the Americans everyone is pleased. They convince themselves they are working for a much better future for their country – and the money also helps. The girlfriend is happy to go along with whatever keeps her boyfriend happy. It reminds us just how much women are the pawns or men in war as much with the Americans as with the Iraqis. Jennifer Varda gives a sensitive portrayal of the woman and her dilemma.
Much of the 75-minute play explores the interrogation and treatment of prisoners. Its tone is at times brutal and uncompromising. It is also punctuated by many shafts of humour reminding us just how ordinary and acceptable such tragedies can become.
The set is sparse and stark which suits the mood of the narrative which switches between the almost spiritual to the harsh physical. Director Ellie Hurt skilfully uses the space to control the pace of this compelling tale by Naylor, which deservedly won an Edinburgh Festival, Fringe First in 2014.
Kathryn McGurk is excellent as Sergeant Foster the idealist new-style interrogator buffeted on the winds of expediency and the hellish anger when American soldiers are blown up by a suicide bomber. Even her Captain, who wants to turn this once notorious prison into a model of humanity, is eventually twisted out of shape by the horror of it all. Reginald Edwards gives a very powerful, and often explosive, performance as the Captain caught in the middle.
All of this takes place in the former Mesopotamia, regarded by some as the cradle of civilisation. This is certainly one for The Collectors.
Runs until 10 November 2018 | Image: John K Roberts Photography