The Amber Trap
Reviewed – 29th April 2019
“Barrie offers the majority of light relief throughout the play, her rolling eyes and gurning facial expressions being priceless”
Northern town. Tick. The ins and outs of the local offie. Tick. This may sound like we’re venturing into Open All Hours territory, however, Tabitha Mortiboy’s latest play, The Amber Trap, is far removed from the corny jokes and canned laughter of the former. It’s a modern twist on a staple of British culture.
Things have been fine and dandy in the local corner shop. Everything working like clockwork, the same old faces come shuffling in and out. Katie and her girlfriend Hope have been harmoniously working at the shop for two years, stealing kisses in between the aisles. It’s Katie’s little haven, where she can be her true self with Hope, without anyone watching. This soon changes once manager Jo, hires new kid Michael. As sweet and innocent as the boy seems, he instantly shifts the dynamic of their microcosm, becoming a real cat amongst the pigeons.
Where Mortiboy scores most with this play is her examination of Katie and Hope’s relationship, from the highs of young love to the lows of painful truths. The ambiguous and abrupt ending comes as a deflated anti-climax, which leaves a tinge of disappointment. There are also times where Katie’s actions and motivations are a little questionable, or you feel, as an audience, you don’t quite understand her reasonings, however, Olivia Rose Smith plays her with naturalistic sensitivity and believability that allows you to oversee this.
Fanta Barrie as Hope is fiery, fun and has a gob that can get her into trouble, but under it all is a complete softy, infatuated with her girlfriend. Barrie offers the majority of light relief throughout the play, her rolling eyes and gurning facial expressions being priceless. Misha Butler, playing Michael, is skin-crawlingly odd. His progression from sweet with strange tendencies, to full blown creep with a troubled past, makes it uncomfortable to watch at times, although rather predictable – it’s always the nice ones!
The set (designed by Jasmine Swan) has been painstakingly put together to recreate a decrepit, ageing corner shop we all know and love, stocked with cheap booze, packets of crisps that shouldn’t be sold separately, and sad-looking sandwiches. The intricate detail Swan has gone into helps to suck the audience into the claustrophobic, “matchbox” world of the store.
With an ace soundtrack of pounding Noughties indie tunes, the crackly shop radio plays an integral part in emphasising certain moods of the characters or atmospheres within scenes. Annie May Fletcher’s sound design proves an important component within the overall story.
As strong as the performances and as brilliant as the designs are, the writing is where certain cracks show with much of the dialogue falling back on cliches and predictable outcomes. Nevertheless, it’s still an enjoyable trip down the road for a pint of laughter and a box of unnerving drama.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by The Other Richard
The Amber Trap
Theatre503 until 18th May
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: