This intriguing smalltown study takes a bizarre swerve into murderous stalker cliché
It’s always the ones that start out seeming harmless. Or at least it is in Tabitha Mortiboy’s ‘The Amber Trap’. Set in a small town convenience store that could pretty much be any place, anywhere, the story thrives on its ordinariness. And I mean that as a compliment.
The shop is like every corner shop or small supermarket everywhere, its shelves lined with Pampers, Maoam, Tampax – the typical stuff. Katie (Olivia Rose Smith) and her girlfriend Hope (Fanta Barrie) are the typical bored twenty-somethings working there who spend most of their shifts nicking bits of food and climbing on the counter. Then there’s Jo (Jenny Bolt), the typical older woman glazed with a thick layer of sadness who indulges the younger generation because, well, they’re actually quite good fun.
And it all stays being ultra-typical right up to the point where Michael (Misha Butler) joins the workforce. Michael is the other sort of young person who ends up working in a shop, the one that’s just doing it for a bit of extra cash before fleeing his hometown for university, in his case to study medicine.
Directed by Hannah Hauer-King, it’s propelled forward by some very good performances. Barrie is great as the no-fucks-given Hope and Butler is, at points, properly creepy as the pre-med newbie with a weird fascination in dissection.
What happens next is, in many ways, depressingly believable in terms of how some unhinged men treat women. But script-wise, it’s a little bit too predictable. Perhaps the point is to show that terrifying stalker types really do use every cliché going (as I am sure to an extent they do), yet as dialogue on stage it sounds distractingly formulaic.
It’s more interesting in how it shows Katie and Hope’s relationship, complete with all the heart-on-sleeve emotions of first love, the giddiness, snogging and an anniversary marked by slurping vodka straight from the bottle.