Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

09/06/2018 - 07/07/2018

Production Details

Are you more loyal to who you love, or what you love?

The Atom Room is a thrilling new love story, set within a highly-advanced virtual reality system where couples ‘meet’ and ‘interact’ in ways so believable, it might as well be reality itself. Imagine an ultra-modern version of Skype, but you can touch, visit, feel, and love.

Sarah and Danny live in Wellington, 150 years in the future where climate change, tectonic shifts and nuclear accidents have wrecked the environment. Sarah secures an engineering job to create a new colony on Mars, leaving Danny behind on Earth. Can their long-distance relationship survive? Is the Atom Room their only hope?

This is the world premiere of a romantic and thrilling new play by award-winning Wellington playwright Philip Braithwaite, featuring new music from electronic music icons MINUIT.

Starring Harriet Prebble (The Father), Taylor Hall (Filthy Rich, 800 Words) and Claire Waldron (King Lear), with the stellar design team of Ian Harman, Jennifer Lal, and Raylene Beals (Media Ray), led by director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford (La Casa Azul – Frida Kahlo, Hand to God).

Get to the theatre early to experience a unique pre-show virtual reality (VR) prologue in the theatre foyer, designed by Tony St George of Polytronik Studios especially for the show. Ticket holders for The Atom Room play can witness a vision of Wellington 150 years in the future that will leave you breathless and shocked at the sight of what has become of our beautiful city, as imagined by the world of The Atom Room.

The Atom Room is proudly supported by Shoreline Partners.
The pre-show foyer VR prologue is supported by Hell Pizza.


Circa Two
9 June – 7 July 2018
Tue – Sat, 7.30pm
Sun, 4.30pm

Sarah - Harriet Prebble
Danny - Taylor Hall
Margaret - Claire Waldron

Production Team:
Set and Costume Designer - Ian Harman
Lighting Designer - Jennifer Lal
AV Designers - Raylene Beals, Johanna Sanders
Original Music composition and performance – Minuit: Ruth Carr, Paul Dodge, Ryan Beehre
Stage Manager and Technical Operator - Brynne Tasker-Poland
Videography - Benny Jennings & Adam Browne
Publicist and Graphic Designer - Ben Emerson
Publicity photography - Roc Torio, Rebecca Tate
Publicity videography - Zac Emerson
Set construction - Quinn Williams, Blair Ryan, Al Wilton
Front of House Manager - Harish Purohit
Box Office Manager - Eleanor Strathern

VR Pre Show - Polytronik Studios
VR Creative Director - Tony St George
VR Technical Director - Josiah Jordan
VR Fabrication - Al Musson Jr
 VR Technical Assist - Vinny Jordan, Luke Holden
VR Modelling Assist - Nicholas Hutchinson
VR Photogrammetry - Dan Monohan
VR Audio – Minuit
Pre-show VR proudly supported by Hell Pizza  

Theatre ,

Lovers face reality of being worlds apart

Review by Ruby Macandrew 11th Jun 2018

Going straight for the jugular, The Atom Room opens with the confronting image of a starving polar bear, followed up with Wellington’s Bucket Fountain pictured half underwater. It’s a grim start to what’s been touted as a “thrilling love story”.

However, what follows during the play’s 90-minute run time, is equal parts terrifying, funny and heart-warming as we’re given a love story worth rooting for. It doesn’t hurt that the entire soundtrack, composed and performed by Kiwi electronic band Minuit, fits seamlessly with the dystopian romance. [More


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Pair-bonding dilemmas distilled in an exotic context

Review by John Smythe 10th Jun 2018

The startling pre-show Virtual Reality experience (created by Polytronic Studios) available in the Circa foyer introduces us to Wellington 150 years hence (circa 2168). The bucket fountain is on a lean in the middle of Cuba Canal… Fascinatingly disturbing.

The day before this world premiere of The Atom Room, the Stuff website reported that “Nasa’s Curiosity rover has found potential building blocks of life in an ancient Martian lake bed. Hints have been found before, but this is the best evidence yet.” And the printed programme – in which credited production personnel outnumber the cast nine-to-one – includes a quote from the late Stephen Hawking: “If humanity is to survive long-term, it must find a way to get off planet Earth – and fast.”

In Circa Two the prologue to the play is a moving image montage (created by Raylene Beals and Johanna Sanders) of emaciated polar bears on crumbling icecaps, massive damage from an earthquake, oil-spill and cyclone – and what’s that? Has nuclear testing resumed in the Pacific? Realising these images are of actual events on planet Earth within current lifetimes simply reinforces a key premise of Philip Braithwaite’s play: that the need to colonise another planet could well become a political priority in the foreseeable future.

But Braithwaite’s focus is not on the sci-fi details of what exactly has happened to the life-supporting infrastructure of Earth or how exactly Mars might offer a viable alternative. A character does question the wisdom, or lack of it, in swapping a dying planet for a dead one, but she and the couple at the core of this love story – which is what the play is billed as – are well down the food chain when it comes to controlling their own destinies, let alone those of planets Earth and Mars.

As I see it, The Atom Room proposes that no matter how radically things may change, certain things will stay the same. There is a heightened need for protection from threats to human health on both planets – lethal toxins in Earth’s atmosphere and eye-popping problems on Mars – and most of the things we need to sustain ourselves seem to be ‘printable’. But the issues inherent in growing and sustaining the romantic relationship between Mars-bound geometrics engineer Sarah (Harriet Prebble) and Earth-bound policy-writing wordsmith Danny (Taylor Hall) have been the same since Odysseus set out on his big adventure. And the problems Sarah’s EnviroCorp boss, Margaret (Claire Waldron), has to contend with will resonate with anyone trying to survive in today’s workforce.

Or, as a twist on the contentious idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, this play asks: what if this woman was on Mars and that man was on Earth?

The titular room is the means by which the physically separated Sarah and Danny are able to simulate being together in the same place on the same planet, even to the extent of sensing touch through the stimulation of neural pathways. The capacity for sexual intimacy, and the associated need for privacy in an interplanetary digital universe, is not explored, however. Nor is the limit on natural exchanges of bodily fluids canvassed, which surprises me given the question of whether or not to have children recurs and grows in importance as the play progresses.

As directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford on Ian Harmon’s excellent grid-lined set, impeccably lit by Jennifer Lal, there is a weightless fluidity to the action – which floats about in time, as well as through space and various states of ‘reality’, abetted by Minuit’s original music and scene-bridging songs.

Prebble and Hall traverse the peaks and troughs of Sarah and Danny’s relationship with a delightful veracity that compels our empathy while Waldron’s Margaret intersects their orbits in ways that make us realise she too is human and vulnerable.

Along the way we are treated to a number of ‘gags’ arising from the quirks of technology. Sci fi devotees and/or socio-political activists may feel frustrated at the way key questions are glossed over but as a love story played out in an exotic context, The Atom Room engagingly distils the timeless and universal dilemmas that so often impede the human desire to pair-bond for life.


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