Bitcoin Boi, a new play by writer Catherine Dyson and director Hannah McPake, is a commendable balance of fantastical video game play and family drama. It follows Crystal and her daughter Jade as they navigate new virtual dimensions of money as it becomes too tight to mention.
Crystal is beautifully played by Elin Phillips with ample humility in a difficult predicament. She’s a single parent finding little opportunity in her vocation as a cleaner, which means she becomes perfect bait for the sneaky Jasper, who promises a fresh start on his new crypto-based utopia. Meanwhile, Jade is playing a video game that promises a million pounds to its winner. Dena Davies is brimming with humorous teenage frustrations, from unwashed clothes to a confrontational attitude, though there is a considerable amount of touching pathos in her quest to find out about her father.
Although the play is not predominately about cost-of-living struggles, I felt the play adeptly captured the personal anguish often felt in providing for our loved ones. The play comes to life as Jade’s streaming viewers encourage her through separate game levels, such as farming, the Gold Rush, and stock trading. It was a simple yet ingenious method to inform the audience of the history of our financial system and therefore invite them to question its effectiveness.
Interesting facets of the current situation are depicted, too: I particularly enjoyed the involvement of perhaps untrustworthy pirates operating outside the system. Furthermore, the play is commendable for explaining Bitcoin, blockchain, and more in an immediately accessible and fun way through a supermarket allegory.
Dyfan Jones composed songs, especially for the production; they’re a key feature, and deservedly so. At times a fun taunt about the bright breeziness of video game instructions, they are also darkly atmospheric, particularly those of the mysterious villain, the Bounty Hunter. Decked out in a long black coat, her Depeche Mode-inspired numbers as she sneaked after player ‘BitcoinBoi’ suitably lowered the room’s temperature.
Bitcoin Boi is an accessible fusion of realistic theatre and escapist video games and a revealing, thought-provoking take on the ever-changing meaning of money.
Bitcoin Boi, The Riverfront, Newport, Thurs 27 July
On until Sat 29 July. Tickets: £16.50. Info: here
words BILLY EDWARDS photos KIRSTEN MCTERNAN