I wasn’t sure what to make of All In, by experimental Barcelona-based theatre group ATRESBANDES (written in capitals and meaning ‘gang of three’), when I watched it on Wednesday at the New Diorama Theatre. Two days later, I believe this is the desired effect, as memories of it continue to surge through my mind, and I understand that the company believes in the importance of doubt and uncertainty. The company is made up of the original founders, Mònica Almirall Batet, Miquel Segovia Garrell and Albert Pérez Hidalgo, and All In also features Melcior Casals Castellar who takes on the role of the outsider in all of the scenes.
At first the scenes seem to be disparate, they do not link in a narrative, however this concept of the individual who does not conform to the rest of society is common throughout. To my mind certain scenes work better than others. The opening scene is an engaging start as two people have a conversation about a life coach and a storage unit. What makes this interesting is their get up – they are covered in a grey fitted suit which covers even their faces, their clothes, shoes, skin is all grey even down to silvery wigs perched on top of their heads, and they speak into grey microphones. Their words are beautifully enunciated in pleasant lilting English and this alone creates an interesting and sometimes comical effect. I can’t explain the symbolism of the conversation though…
Another person (who we later discover is Melcior) then appears from out of the smoke which is lingering in clouds above the stage. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy plays overhead and lighting flashes in bright pinks and reds (lighting and visuals by Cube.bz). When he places some headphones over his ears, the music stops.
Then we are onto a long and chaotic scene in which four people greet each other in a stilted but humorous manner, and decide to have lunch together at the home of one of them. The description of the kitchen is funny; they indicate the various appliances by tracing squares and rectangles in the air. It all turns less light hearted when Melcior (still the outsider) reveals that he does not eat meat, he does not drink alcohol and, when he acquiesces about eating chicken with them and then starts to drink alcohol, he gets ill and starts vomiting everywhere, including over the chicken, the replacement pizza and basically the entire flat. Things go from bad to worse, the more they all drink: there is some nakedness, some talking into a shoe, the brandishing of a gun, right up until the moment when the others tell Melcior that they hate him and can no longer believe in the human condition when they look at him. So much for trying to fit in!
On the back wall we see a projection of synchronised movements from a festival in North Korea to the sounds of a disembodied monologue. In another strange and seemingly interminable scene set in a club, two of the characters are dancing repetitively, in unison, while the outsider watches the singer who is clad in a skin-tight shiny red jumpsuit.
ATRESBANDES certainly have some original ways to express themselves, they have some hilarious mullet wigs and know how to choose their sound and visuals well. It was also quite choking to hear from Miquel who read out a statement after the applause on press night, denouncing what is happening in Catalonia at the moment. As an exploration of the theme of the individual making his voice heard against the masses, All In has its highlights, but at times its overlong scenes make it feel as messy as the lunch party which is ruined by sick.
hattydaze rating: ***/*****