Reviewer: Lee Shu Yu
Performance: 19 January 2018
Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” blares. A swirling haze – a mass of electric blue and vermillion – reveals one Melcior Casals. The shadows expose his awkward twitches, and a disembodied voice ruminates: How can we be ourselves in a group?
This is All in by ATRESBANDES from Barcelona, as part of the Singapore Fringe Festival 2018: “Let’s Walk”. Indeed, one walks to social expectations and one is tethered to the group, for better or for worse.
The team – consisting of Casals, Miquel Segovia, Mònica Almirall and Albert Pérez Hidalgo, all as themselves – performs a flamboyant arrangement of quirky, nonsensical vignettes.
Then, hypnotic scenes from the Arirang Festival in Pyongyang play out silently in the background like dreamy and chilling clockwork. Beneath the ditzy confetti of All In, disco beats thump incessant loneliness. And this underlying disquiet is the play’s compelling driving force.
All In offers a look at modern life in the city, with what first appears to be banal commentary and unassuming entertainment. Then, it tumbles into absurdist chaos. It is the matching of the self-ironic word with contemplative images that is All In’s strength. Melcior’s overhead haze, and his subsequent stillness under a shapeless sheet of plastic illustrate masterfully the tension of being human.
To have no fixed shape, they lament, is to be self-made, alive and free.
For all of life’s supposed insignificance, this play is deliberate and penetrating: the everyday rituals expose social pretensions, costumes evoke self-invention, and the audio-visual inspire critical and cultural introspection.
In making sense of the disparate moments, one is perhaps forced to face the inescapabilty of ideological and social control. But for all our desire for freedom, the play suggests staying tethered is our instinct: to objects in extra-storage; to people, though they may scorn us; and to art, lest we forget our humanity. Perhaps, like the children in the card stunt of Arirang, we write our own stories and carry our own books. We make but just one pixel, but in a picture nonetheless.
By the end, the audience is made to question: what is “all in”? Is this all in vain? Are we all in misery?
Is this surrender, or solidarity?
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
ALL IN by ATRESBANDES
19 – 20 January 2018
Esplanade Recital Studio
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Shu Yu is a currently pursuing a degree in Theatre Studies at the National University of Singapore and loves exploring all that has to do with the arts. Her latest foray into reviewing stems from a desire to support the vibrant ecology of the arts in Singapore.