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Collector of Tears - Customs House & Touring

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 17th Oct 2014 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge


Production image courtesy of The Customs House.

Collector of Tears – The Customs House, South Shields & Touring

Seldom does it occur that a theatre production has such a profound effect on me as Collector of Tears has had. The epic story of Sunderland-born Tanya Sealt (Madeleine MacMahon) chronicles the personal journey of a woman who is unable to cry – and, consequently, age and die until she does – set against the backdrop of four hundred years of radical English history.

A powerhouse performance from MacMahon, deft direction from Jackie Fielding, and a beautifully poetic script by Sean Burn combine to ensure that Collector of Tears is a production of monumental stature. This fascinating and compelling piece of storytelling is by turn subtle and intense; understated yet compelling.

MacMahon has quite a unique stage presence and has the audience empathising with her character almost instantly. Seemingly undaunted by the demands of performing alone on stage for nearly two hours, she relishes a task that would strike fear into many of her contemporaries. Never a falter or fluffed line, she assuredly guides us through the intriguing events that form the life of Tanya Sealt.

There are tales of love and lust, of joy and sadness, of oppression and triumph. Along the way, Tanya bottles the tears of happiness and despair that are shed by those who have touched her life in one way or another.

Each encounter Tanya has, in an attempt to define and understand her bisexuality, is beautifully complimented by James Henshaw’s lighting design and live music from cellist Ken Patterson.

Of course, before the denouement, tears are shed by Tanya – though I have no intention of revealing how or why. Suffice to say that they are brought about by an intensely personal relationship, played out against a hugely significant political event.

Collector of Tears is a stirring, thought-provoking and uplifting piece of theatre.

Steve Burbridge.


  • Collector of Tears tours to the Caedmon Hall, Gateshead (17 October), Peterborough Key Theatre (23), The Place Bedford (27), Arts Centre Washington (30), Ilkley Playhouse Studio (1 November), Marlborough Theatre Brighton (5), Bristol Bierkeller (6) and Wolverhampton Arena Theatre (7).


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    High praise, Steve! Thanks for your review. This would definitely be worth catching on tour!
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