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Theatre Review: The Collection

'Intense, harrowing and true,' Lorna Irvine reviews Rapture Theatre's latest touring production.

Skeletons fall out of filing cabinets in Mike Cullen's taut play, set in the seedy world of a debt collection agency where nobody can be trusted.

Gauche, sweaty-palmed oaf Billy Shaw (Tam Dean Burn) has just started at Unity Credit, where amoral misogynist boss Joe Cravis (David Tarkenter) is showing him the ropes, with beer and bawdy laughs. Long term colleague Bob Lawson (Jimmy Chisholm) has no such ease in his conscience, haunted by the recent suicide of Jane, a female client, and is starting to unravel. Soon it becomes apparent that Lawson knows more about his client than was initially stated.

Into this patriarchal environment steps a desperate woman, Elena Malcolm (Pauline Turner), who has debts in the thousands and ''letters coming through my letter box like bullets''. A dangerous game between Malcolm and the company begins. Turner's character Elena, who could so easily have been mere window dressing, twists in ways that are both unpredictable and keenly felt. Only her speech towards the end seems a little unsubtle.

Cullen's profane staccato language is superbly rendered by an excellent ensemble; an unbearable tension hangs like smoke in the air. Michael Emans' direction is well-paced, drawing out each individual character's struggle: brutal and terse in the first half, more measured in the second. Only Joe is without redemption, the classic psychopathic villain, smirking and gimlet eyed to the point of regarding himself as infallible.

Lyn McAndrew's sleek black and silver set design for the agency contrasts neatly with back projections on three screens displaying the horrible reality: the tear-stained face of Jane who killed herself; her funeral, the domestic banality of a stark kitchen where threats are deployed.

Vacillating between uncomfortable chuckles and shudders, Rapture Theatre have created a piece that is intense, harrowing and true -with no easy solutions- especially resonant for the thousands of people in Britain suffering from debt, who are being backed into a corner on a daily basis.

In the words of Joe Cravis himself, ''spot- the fuck- on''.

Tours Scotland until October 10.

Tags: theatre

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