Friday, June 15, 2018

The Atom Room

We’re back in Wellington now, and well into the winter season at Circa Theatre. This week was the world premiere of The Atom Room, a new play by Philip Braithwaite. Yes, that Philip Braithwaite.

As we’d not been out for dinner for a while, we decided on Zibibbo as an appropriate venue for dinner beforehand. We selected the pre-theatre menu as there was plenty on here to please everyone. There have been some changes since we were last there – the maitre-d’ who can’t remember my name has gone, to be replaced by a Scottish woman who didn’t ask. We did have a question for her, however: as the latest Wellington On A Plate catalogue has just been published, listing all the delights available between 10th and 26th August, one establishment was conspicuous by its absence…Zibibbo! This year, they’re not doing degustation! Quelle horreur! We asked why, and apparently it’s because the owner is concentrating all his attention on his latest project, Union Square. This is handily located in the Martinborough Hotel, in Martinborough, so a bit of a long way for us to go for dinner. Looks like we’ll be skipping that one then, which is a shame, as the Zibibbo degustation had become one of the highlights of WOAP for us.

Before the show begins, there’s a virtual reality show available. You put on a headset and are guided through Wellington of the future, with the bucket fountain listing in Cuba Canal, before virtually crash-landing outside Circa Theatre (which made us a bit seasick) and walking into the virtual theatre.

So, to The Atom Room. 150 years in the future, and global warming, rising sea levels, and nuclear catastrophes have basically buggered Earth. Wellington has been doubly buggered by a magnitude 9 earthquake as well. Danny, an environmentalist, works as a civil servant trying to protect the planet with good grammar. He meets engineer Sarah, played by Circa regular Harriet Prebble. They fall in love, and after three months he takes her to a part of the country where the air is breathable without masks, points out the lovely view – both Wellington and Hutt Islands are visible – and proposes to her. This is a weirdly retro thing to do, but it’s coming back into fashion. Shortly after this, she is recruited to go and work on a new project on Mars, and that’s where the problem starts. They continue to meet in a virtual environment provided by her employers, The Atom Room – where they can see, hear, and even touch (but not smell) each other. This is where the majority of the play takes place, as Sarah’s career blossoms and she is offered an open-ended contract on Mars, whilst Danny loses his job on Earth. As you might imagine, there’s some tension, particularly as they want to have children. Complicating things further are the machinations of Sarah’s boss, Margaret.

The play basically covers the problems of long-distance relationships and distance, the ways and means of overcoming them, how to misunderstand someone, and all the usual problems. And fart jokes. There are fart jokes. Catch it if you can.

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