Andy Howells reviews a new Co-Production between Catherine Dyson and The Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre.
Bitcoin Boi premiered to a packed Riverfront studio in Newport on Thursday evening.
The new musical drama created by Catherine Dyson & Hannah McPake follows the story of Jade and her mother Crystal. Both of whom dream of a better life, a life originally promised to them by Jade’s father, before he disappeared.
While struggling to deal with financial problems and working their way through their individual grief, the relationship of mother and daughter has become strained. Not sharing their goals for a better life, both individually pursue their own journeys for solutions and happiness. While Jade relentlessly chases down a mythical fortune in a video game, pursued by an unseen Bounty Hunter, Crystal is seduced by the offer of a new life from a mysterious stranger, Jasper.
Inspired by a true story (the original Bitcoin Boy lived in Newport), the presentation’s themes remain uncomfortably universal, examining our reactions to grief and hope, and how we can overlook the valuable things in life and lose them so easily at a greater cost.
While Jim, our unseen Bitcoin Boi has lost both his worldly possessions and family due to the world of computer gaming (and gambling), the play ultimately deals with the aftereffects of what happens to his family after he leaves the narrative.
The temptation to look for an easy way to a better life, be it successful social media influencer or listening to a complete stranger telling us a simpler way of achieving our goals (at a price!) is greater than ever in the age of internet and reality television.
Ultimately Bitcoin Boi shows us that the answers to our hopes our within ourselves and each other. Jade and Crystal are beautifully characterised by Dena Davies and Elin Phillips, right down to clothing and South Walian accents.
Gwawr Loader’s brilliant Bounty Hunter and Alex Parry’s caddish Jasper also give us further food for thought. Outstanding and impressive in appearance, their characters are equally deceptive and ruthless, although both have their own personal hurdles to cross.
Bitcoin Boi‘s set while glitzy, is reminiscent of the new computer age era of the 1980s, which gives the show a bit of a retro vibe which is reflected in Dyfan Jones’ technopop music score. This doesn’t detract from the musical’s content and if anything gives it a subtle dark edginess that reflects the content brilliantly.
A giant screen illustrates the games Jade navigates through and the videos that tempt Crystal to a better life, there are also on-screen subtitles which on occasion are useful to refer too. These sequences are frequently elevated with extra accents to read out chatroom comments from scouse to pirate provided by the four versatile actors, adding much in the way of humour.
While elements of the show are fun, Bitcoin Boi‘s punchy message challenges our thoughts of the times we are living in. Suitable for ages 12+, Bitcoin Boi is a musical that has potential to go much further into the world of theatre.
Bitcoin Boi will be performed at The Riverfront on Friday July 28 at 7.30pm and Saturday july 29 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are available online at BITCOIN BOI (Suitable for ages 12+) (ticketsolve.com) or by calling 01633 656757.