Guest Blog: Tabitha Mortiboy On THE AMBER TRAP
I started writing The Amber Trap over two years ago while I was living in Brighton in a little flat by the sea. I knew that I wanted to write a story which uncovered some of the labyrinthine power structures that exist between men and women; a story that studied the way the male gaze treats women, and how the low-level aggressions that so many women are subjected to each day can mutate into acts of violence engendered by a deep-set, structural misogyny.
I knew that, on its own, that was the stuff of theory and not of drama, so I wanted to set those ideas in motion with a cast of characters that sang off the pages and leapt into life in a way that made those words human.
We hear and read often of patriarchal systems, objectification and gender politics - but I wanted to examine how those ideas play out in daily life, and I wanted to do that in a space that felt familiar, simple and apparently safe. And so the story of The Amber Trap began to unravel: a young woman working with her girlfriend in their local shop, whose life is irrevocably altered when an 18-year-old boy arrives to work alongside them.
The other thing I knew for certain was that I wanted the protagonists of my story to be young gay women. I wanted to put a story on stage that featured gay characters who were more than tokens, and who weren't just reduced to the terms of their sexuality. I wanted to see a gay relationship on stage that wasn't thrust into the limelight as an issue or a problem, and that was celebrated as a relationship like any other, in all its wonderful, flawed and messy glory.
So, with those raw ingredients, I started writing The Amber Trap - a story that has since evolved through over 15 drafts, passing back and forth between my agent and my director Hannah Hauer-King.
I'm not the first to make this observation, but it's no coincidence that the term playwright is derived from the two words 'play' and 'wrought'. Playwriting is a synthesis of invention and application. Half of the fun is messing about with words and ideas, but the other half is working with painstaking precision to sculpt the story in your hands.
The fun really starts when, 15 drafts later, the script is ready to be handed to the actors, who perform a kind of magic that amazes me every time. Having lived with the words on your pages for so long, handing them over to actors is the moment when the alchemy really begins.
On the first day of rehearsals, we gather the whole company and read the play aloud from start to finish, and suddenly a world that has existed only in your imagination stampedes into the room and takes on a life of its own.
It's a pleasure and a privilege to work with so many incredible creatives. To hear a director as inimitably talented as Hannah discussing the play with such care and insight and understanding, and to have producers like Kitty Wordsworth oiling the wheels of the whole machine.
To have incredible designers creating an imagined world in front of your eyes, to have stage management cunningly source props day by day so that the little shop begins to materialise in what was once an empty space, to have the sound design flex its muscles and flood the scenes with music and rhythm - every one of those moments is infused with its own particular brand of magic.
It's one of the things I love most about theatre: it's not a solitary endeavour; it's a symphony of collaboration. A play is something we all create together, because somewhere in our DNA is the drive to tell stories. That's why good theatre is spell-binding, and I hope and believe that, thanks to the collective brilliance of the team behind this story, The Amber Trap will be exactly that.
Photo credit: George Jaques