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Review: PROJECT ATOM BOI, VAULT Festival

Review: PROJECT ATOM BOI, VAULT Festival

The play is a host of excellent ideas, but gets lost in choices that feel more like stylistic exercises than reasoned methods of storytelling.

Review: PROJECT ATOM BOI, VAULT Festival

A young woman takes us back to a childhood spent in a Chinese city built to house nuclear weapons. Her pushy friend wants to make a documentary about her - a docu-fiction, actually, as stated in the script - so she convinces Yuanzi to share the memories of an unlikely happy upbringing. Project Atom Boi unlocks her story through drawings and live projections in a show that owns buckets of potential.

The play is a host of excellent ideas, from the lesser-explored side of the Soviet relationship with China to its very delivery, but gets lost in choices that feel more like stylistic exercises than reasoned methods of storytelling. The multimedia nature at its core and a participatory vein introduce new, compelling theatrics, but a shaky premise and an equally unsteady framing device makes it slightly too convoluted for it to work seamlessly at this stage.

Xiaonan Wang is the quiet protagonist. Her experiences are prodded by Francesca Marcolina (no relation, I promise) as the excitable filmmaker. While the latter is constrained by a character tied cartoonishly between pretentious and kooky, Wang is too minimalistic for a show that's anything but. One overdoes the comic edges with Kelvin Chan's sidekick in the adventure, the other over-delivers the hefty drama. The juxtaposition would be cleverly jarring if it was more curated.

Director He Zhang brings light to an unexplored side of history, but does so too unsteadily for it to achieve the desired effect. The forcefully comic edge of the docufiction pretext skews the tone of the narrative, but the abruptness of the scene changes sharpens the delivery (although at times the logical connections aren't immediately clear). This first iteration of the piece is the perfect chance for the material to grow alongside its creatives: the elements of a great production are all there, they just need further polishing.

Project Atom Boi runs at VAULT Festival until 29 January.



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From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

... (read more about this author)

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