Tag Archives: Jasmine Swan


The Yard Theatre



The Yard Theatre

Reviewed – 5th June 2019



“at an unsettling, anxiety-inducing pitch, the play takes us to the darkest corners of our society”


In small town America, Sam (Michelle Fox) and her husband John (Mark Quartley) have a thing for guns. ‘Thing’ as in obsession: they can’t leave the house or sleep without one. ‘Thing’ also as in fetish: the cold steel plays a prominent role in their sex life. Sam was kidnapped when she was thirteen. Someone with a gun rescued her. Guns are her comfort and her safety.

But one night, John accidentally shoots Sam in the arm during a sex game, and they decide to cut guns out of their lives completely. This is easier said than done when Sam’s brother Scotty (Nima Taleghani) comes to stay with a full arsenal, and the news reports a local girl, Jessica, has been kidnapped. All of Sam’s unresolved emotions come flooding back. Under the pressure, cracks spread through Sam and John’s marriage, Sam’s mental stability, and their gun-abstinence pact.

Far from being simple gun control propaganda, Sarah Kosar’s Armadillo is bold enough to delve into an issue most of us want to see as black and white. At an unsettling, anxiety-inducing pitch, the play takes us to the darkest corners of our society: where young girls are kidnapped, sexually abused, and murdered. Where even the staunchest anti-gun activists might catch themselves thinking, ‘if I’d had a gun…’

The design team submerges us into the nightmare, creating a paranoid fever-dream of flashing neon lights and pulsing, hallucinatory blackouts (Jessica Hung Han Yun), sharp sounds (Anna Clock), and disrupted media projections (Ash J Woodward). Like ticking bombs, the constant, ominous presence of guns keeps the audience on edge throughout the ninety minutes. Stuffed in couch cushions, under pillows, in the freezer, firearms are littered throughout Jasmine Swan’s clever, intriguing set. Raised platforms display a deconstructed house (a mattress, a toilet), encircled by calf-deep water.

Kosar impressively interrogates the complexity of Sam’s trauma as she struggles with whether she’s justified in being as damaged as she is. “Nothing really even happened!” people love telling her, since her kidnapper threatened but never touched her. However, John and Scotty are noticeably shallower characters. The dialogue between the three of them is uneven, awkward, and unnatural, which carries over into Fox, Quartley, and Taleghani’s delivery. It may be a stylistic choice by Kosar and director Sara Joyce as part of the uncomfortable, surreal aesthetic, but the stilted lines prevent the characters (even Sam) from feeling like real people, which makes them difficult to connect with.

There’s plenty of sharp observation in the play’s themes of addiction, enabling (and the guilt that motivates it), coping with trauma, toxic relationships, fetishising violence, and self-destructive behaviour. Armadillos famously jump when scared, which often results in them being hit by cars that would have harmlessly passed over them. Their defence ironically puts them in more danger. It’s a shrewd analogy for the way Americans reach for automatic weapons in search of safety.


Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Maurizio Martorana



The Yard Theatre until 22nd June


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Hotter Than A Pan | ★★★★ | January 2019
Plastic Soul | ★★★★ | January 2019
A Sea Of Troubles | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Cuteness Forensics | ★★½ | February 2019
Sex Sex Men Men | ★★★★★ | February 2019
To Move In Time | ★★½ | February 2019
Ways To Submit | ★★★★ | February 2019


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The Amber Trap


The Amber Trap

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:
Her Not Him | ★★★ | January 2018
Br’er Cotton | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Reared | ★★★ | April 2018
Isaac Came Home From the Mountain | ★★★★ | May 2018
Caterpillar | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Art of Gaman | ★★★★ | October 2018
Hypocrisy | ★★★½ | November 2018
Cinderella and the Beanstalk | ★★★★ | December 2018
Cuzco | ★★★ | January 2019
Wolfie | ★★★★★ | March 2019


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