ONLY one play tackled the subject of our times – the tinderbox Middle East and the rise of Islamist extremism – at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe, bemoaned playwright Henry Naylor in a post-show Q and A with The Collector's cast and creative team on Thursday night.

That play was Angel, the third instalment in what has become known as Naylor's Arabian Nightmare Trilogy. The Collector was the first, revived for this summer's Fringe and now on a tour that has begun this week in York.

Naylor, once one half of comedy duo Naylor & Parsons, was leader writer for ITV's savagely satirical puppet show Spitting Image, when he set himself the regular challenge of finding humour in the most difficult of subjects of that era, the IRA.

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Olivia Beardsley's American interrogator Foster in The Collector. Picture: Sheila Burnett

He first contemplated writing The Collector as a comedy, but realised the subject matter was far too serious for that, given its roots in the torture and abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Naylor's visit to Bagram Airbase in 2003.

Directed ascetically by London Classic Theatre artistic director Michael Cabot with room for the audience's imagination to fly, The Collector is a 65-minute piece of storytelling theatre with three chairs, three light bulbs, three actors, five characters and no sound effects.

The setting for an Arabian tale of murder, evil and betrayal is Mazrat Prison, under Allied command in occupied Iraq in 2003. The two unseen characters, Nassir, a pro-Western translator for the American interrogators, and Faisal, a psychotic supporter of the old regime, are the play's cornerstones.

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Anna Riding's Zoya in The Collector. Picture: Sheila Burnett

All is played out by Cabot's superb cast through the narrative cut and thrust of Nassir's sweetheart, Zoya (Anna Riding), and two American soldiers with differing interrogative techniques, Foster (Olivia Beardsley) and Kasprowicz (William Reay).

Intense, challenging political theatre that brings bleak insight and fierce intelligence to matters of such complexity, The Collector demands that plays two and three, Echoes and Angel, should be toured too.

The Collector, Kathryn Barker Productions/London Classic Theatre, The Studio, York Theatre Royal, tonight and tomorrow at 7.45pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at