This play follows down-on-her-luck Jade and mother Crystal as they seek prosperity promised by stories of a crypto utopia, and was inspired by the real-life story of a Newport man who lost his cryptocurrency fortune. Developed at and premiering in Newport’s Riverfront theatre, Billy Edwards spoke to writer Catherine Dyson and director Hannah McPake.
How did you find inspiration from the local news story?
Catherine Dyson: We’re clear that’s not our story to tell, because it’s a real person and it’s his story, but what inspired us were the ideas about what we value and what we throw away. The characters we’ve created are totally fictional, but that’s the kind of quest they’re on.
Did you have much prior knowledge of this technology?
Hannah McPake: If we’re totally honest, it was all quite new! We went on this massive quest back through trying to understand financial systems – the ‘video game’ we’ve created has every different layer of the history of money. There’s a bartering level, there’s a gold rush level, there’s a Wall Street level and there’s a crypto level! We look at how what started off as a basic system of swapping things that people needed has become people sitting on hordes – on a quest to always want more.
Do you think these new technologies are an exciting prospect for theatre?
Catherine: I think money, as a subject, is not often explored in theatre. What we’re not saying is a sort of simplistic “money doesn’ t matter, you don’t need it” – we’re totally acknowledging this disparity and this sort of widening inequality. But we’re also trying to poke at how that gets manipulated, and how it turns us against each other when we’re being sold these dreams.
What do you hope the audience will take away about cryptocurrency?
Hannah: When you look at cryptocurrency and blockchain, it looks like a brilliant and incredibly fair way of operating. But like anything, it’s so easily corrupted, and corruptible. I think that’s probably because of human nature – people will always try to cheat systems, and always want more than the person next to us. We were really interested in making a piece that questioned what money is, how we use it, and how quite often the dreams that are sold are not necessarily the things that are important.
Jade and Crystal’s situation is an increasingly familiar one. Could you tell me more about their relationship?
Catherine: I suppose the first thing to say is that we hope the characters feel very authentic and real – but this isn’t a realistic story. It’s got a fairytale quality to it. They’re stuck in lots of different ways: with a lack of money, a lack of opportunity, and a lack of options. The story centres around them dealing with that in the wrong way.
What kind of role do the songs, composed for the show by Dyfan Jones, play?
Hannah: We were keen for some fun songs from Dyfan because we’re tapping into this big, meaty subject matter – we wanted to make it an entertaining night out. They resemble a late-80s sound, like Pet Shop Boys or Depeche Mode.
Has the production of this play changed your relationship with money?
Catherine: I definitely feel I’ve learned a huge amount about our basic ignorance of money. It has no sort of inherent value, and so there is an element of a game. It’s made me think a lot about capitalism and whether there is a better way.
Hannah: And I feel like I finally understand what blockchain is. We try to explain it in the show – we have a really fun sequence! It’s perhaps a generational thing. I definitely feel like I have a better understanding of what the cryptocurrency landscape is, and can see why people are really excited by it… but I haven’t got any bitcoin.
Bitcoin Boi, The Riverfront, Newport, Thurs 27-Sat 29 July; The Met, Abertillery, Tue 1 + Wed 2 Aug
words BILLY EDWARDS