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Project Atom Boi – Camden People’s Theatre | Review

A touching tale of nostalgia, memory and the past that doesn’t reach as far as it might have.

Steeped in the memory of three young, passionate hopeful people Project Atom Boi fishes around in nostalgia, innocence and childhood in an abstract visual piece of meta storytelling. Yuanzi (Xiaonan Wang) dreams of being a scientist, one of film-making and one of playing forever. This fleetingly participatory exploration drops in on the story of Yuanzi, and Erdan (Kelvin Chan), as they play in the imagination and reality of the nearby secret Chinese nuclear base.

Project Atom Boi at Camden People's Theatre.
Project Atom Boi at Camden People’s Theatre.

They dance and indulge in imaginary worlds, and there is a sweet nostalgia in these moments. Intermittently Yuanzi steps out of the memory, reflecting and considering what any of it meant. We learn that she has lied about her past, and in this moment is a glimpse into an exploration of nostalgia and how rose-tinted spectacles can change us and our pasts.

One wants to be a filmmaker but is undermined by her constantly overwhelming mother. The last is something of a mystery, dancing, clowning and singing his way through life. The piece is an intriguing collage of moments, montage, melancholic dialogue and reflections on the past. There are moments when the dialogue is touching, intimate and vulnerable, though these are overshadowed by the repetitive indulgence in euphoric childhood memories.

As a piece it is stylistically interesting, engaging in moments of audience participation, approaching subject matter from unexpected places and finding new ways to look at old stories. Unfortunately, Project Atom Boii is uncertain as to what it is, it fluctuates between different tones with little cohesion, and dialogue never quite reaches the moving significance it might have.

2 gold stars

Review by Tom Carter

Ensemble Members:
Xiaonan Wang, Kelvin Chan, Francesca Marcolina

Creatives:
Director: He Zhang
Producer: Amy Sze
Associate Director: Kiki Ye
Movement Director: Ting-ning Wen
Stage Manager: Vivi Wei
Set Design: Erin Guan
Lighting Design: Cheng Keng
Sound Design: Jovienne Jin

Awarded Artist Choice Award at VAULT festival 2023 and Untapped Award shortlist 2024 by New Diorama Theatre, Project Atom Boi returns with a refined and redevised script. This is a show about Doomerism, Chinese nuclear city and post-Soviet nostalgia that find its way to tell a dark, apocalyptic story with interactive theatre and live filming. Come to see Yuanzi, a Chinese migrant in her late 20s living in London take on an introspective through time. The piece works backwards from a numbed, dystopian state of alienation to examine the influences embedded in a childhood upbringing dominated by utopian ideals, often inextricably bound up with USSR’s historical relationship with China.

PROJECT ATOM BOI
Camden People’s Theatre
15 to 18 May 2024, 21:00
https://cptheatre.co.uk/

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