collector of tears

Thu 6th November 2014


Adele Fraser

at 23:19 on 7th Nov 2014



This performance of Sean Burn’s Collector of Tears was a brilliant illustration of how simplicity can demonstrate great talent. Madeleine MacMahon portrays her character of Tanya Sealt with prowess and energetic engagement. The play, loosely based upon Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando,” was a beautiful insight into the role of bisexuality throughout the ages.

The premise is a quaint story about how a girl’s grandmother passes down her role as “A Collector of Tears.” The story recounted by said dying relation, reveals that she has spent a lifetime collecting tears from significant events and people in history due to her inability to cry and age until she does. The protagonist Tanya Sealt, played by Madeleine MacMahon, discovers that she has a similar fate of long life, and so takes on this role with some apprehension. However as time progresses, she discovers that this is indeed her true calling.

This provides context for an insightful and perfectly delivered exploration of gender injustice, sexuality and the universal contemplation of one’s position and mark on history. The staging, albeit simple, was effective and dramatic, whilst the accompanying live music performed by Ken Patterson, provided a pleasantly subtle backing to MacMahon’s precise re-enactments of each vignette.

As we see each significant event in Tanya Sealt’s life, running from 1586 to the present day, she explains how she impacted the thoughts and lives of greats such as William Shakespeare himself, and feminist icons such as Mary Wollstonecraft. We see how the character is able to adapt and enjoy the ideas and changes of each era she encounters and ultimately, how a lifetime of injustice and societal oppression can take a toll on one’s perception of humanity.

By the conclusion of the performance, we are able to see that it is a brilliantly crafted production with direction from Jackie Fielding and the script, a beautifully nuanced portrait of the changing attitudes towards sexuality throughout several centuries.


emily quinn

at 13:31 on 11th Nov 2014



Loosely based on Virginia Woolf's 'Orlando', 'Collector of Tears' is a phenomenal and provoking piece. The play follows the life of Tanya Sealt, a bisexual, androgynous, powerful woman who cannot age until she cries. Her duty is to collect the tears of those who matter to her, a duty passed onto her by her grandmother.

Although the piece is a monologue, Tanya (Madeline MacMahon) plays each character, from her grandmother and sisters, to William Shakespeare and WWI soldiers. Incredibly, each character has their own voice, personality, and mannerisms. Despite the myriad of characters in the play, Madeline portrays each one as completely individual without so much as a costume change. Her talent is evident as she seamlessly moves from character to character, never blurring them, nor diminishing the strength of her main role, Tanya. Indeed, the transformations are so sleek and imperceptible that its often possible to forget that Madeline is the only actor on stage - the only other inhabitant being the cellist accompanying the monologue.

Tanya's story is a journey, starting in 1586 and ending in 1990. The people she encounters on her journey help her to discover herself - both her sexual identity and her fierce and principled belief in "free born rights". However, the play is not just concerned with Tanya's encounters and adventures.The play pointedly comments on the implications of the immortality humanity craves, from the practical - Tanya is unable to get a passport - to the emotional. Tanya often remarks how lonely her existence is - outliving all her friends and lovers, having to constantly move on to avoid persecution, feeling rootless and outcast. Her agelessness becomes a curse . Madeline creates each of Tanya's emotions, from laughter and love, to despair, and the audience feels each and every one alongside her. When Tanya finally learns to cry, whilst defending the woman she loves and her "free born rights", her triumph is our triumph too. Madeline is flawless, and 'Collector of Tears' is an impeccable masterpiece.


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