The corner shop in a bustling Northern town is often featured on the likes of Coronation Street and other popular television programmes; it has become a cultural cornerstone, a place that feels both homely and familiar, and yet not quite home, given the sinister goings-on that can occur at your local 7-Eleven. The Amber Trap by Tabitha Mortiboy is no exception to this rule; it fits nicely within the canon of corner shop storylines to date, offering an interesting LGBTQ take on an ostensibly humdrum context. And so, we meet Katie (Olivia Rose Smith) and Hope (Fanta Barrie), a young 20-something couple whose relationship forms the crux of the plot; Katie is not ‘out’ yet, and the shop owner Jo (Jenny Bolt) is the only person that knows about their budding relationship.
That is until Michael (Misha Butler) arrives. A wannabe doctor, 18-year-old Michael instantly becomes attracted to Katie, resulting in a series of longing looks and doe eyes that cause confusion and growing tension, as Katie attempts to protect her relationship with Hope without confronting her demons. Katie, it seems, has a few – she will not ‘out’ herself for fear of the subsequent disappointment she may evoke amongst friends and family, and perhaps even enjoys the flirtations she has with men: ‘it just makes things easier’, she asserts. Of course, this lack of clarity is bewildering for Michael, clearly a boy with a troubled past and a subsequent fixation on ‘helping people.’ Naturally, the misunderstandings come to a head, with rather disastrous and bloody consequences for all.
The action, however, is not always believable, nor depicted in a way that generates audience sympathy; the conclusion is predictable, with attempts to flesh out the backstories of each character falling short (many hints are dropped, but each arguably leads to frustration, rather than dawning realisations). Where Mortiboy does succeed, however, is in her accurate and subtly comedic depiction of daily life in this cosy little corner shop; the more low-key, uneventful moments are the most heart-warming, drawing us into the world on stage, assisted by Jasmine Swan’s detailed, familiar set design. The relationship between Katie and Hope, whilst never fully believable, does have its moments; these characters, in particular, are both directed and performed in such a way that makes you want to stay in their company for just a little longer.
The Amber Trap, therefore, attempts to address some pretty big ideas; many audience members will no doubt relish the opportunity to see a struggle they recognise on stage.
However, in only scratching the surface of the much wider issues each character faces, Damsel Production’s latest production occasionally falls flat, somewhat diluting its central message and the moments of realism that are so touching.
Review by Amy Stow
Katie and her girlfriend Hope work at their local corner shop, where the days pass in quiet, comfortable rhythms. But when new employee Michael arrives, the sands start to shift and the air begins to thicken.
Written by Tabitha Mortiboy (Beacons) and directed by Hannah Hauer-King (The Funeral Director, Fabric), all-female theatre company Damsel Productions (Fabric, Fury, Grotty, Dry Land) presents The Amber Trap, an unsettling portrait of devotion and control.
Damsel Productions in association with Theatre503 presents
THE AMBER TRAP
Written by Tabitha Mortiboy
Directed by Hannah Hauer-King
Booking to 18th May 2019