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M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2018: All In by ATRESBANDES (Review)

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EDM, North Korea and storage space collapse into an absurdist reflection on the difficulty of remaining an individual in an already overcrowded world. 

Two figures clad in black zentai suits discuss getting a self storage space in distorted voices. A man finds his opinions constantly silenced and quashed whenever he raises them to his ‘friends’. A ghostly figure meets a red suited, Japanese-speaking man in a mysterious nightclub, seeking for some form of connection in each other, however fleeting.

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Leapfrogging from one surreal world to the next, All In already clearly establishes itself as a play intending to go beyond any semblance of ‘naturalistic’. Birthed from a desire to discuss the difficulty of finding a true sense of belonging amidst a world that often seeks to absorb one into the mainstream, ATRESBANDES has crafted an incredibly unique theatrical experience that leaves one feeling slightly uneasy, discomforted and more awake than ever.

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All In plays out like a slow burn, easing you into its off kilter world before going all out with its absurd logic, subverting expectations and cutting into your very soul with surprisingly powerful imagery. The incredible quartet of Albert Perez Hidalgo, Monica Almirall, Miquel Segovia and Melcior Casals are completely dedicated to their wild characters, each donning increasingly wild costumes and illogical actions, from nonsensically repeating ‘how are you?’ to each other to contracting hysteria from an onion. Although initially comedic in what feels like a parody of Saturday morning kids variety shows, it quickly gives way to much darker, violent means to keep odd one out Melcior in check, the sunny exterior of his three compatriots ripped apart to unveil a willingness to kill.

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Amidst its sharp social commentary on the ubiquity and almost conscription like nature of fitting in, All In manages to find truly affecting moments in its penultimate segment, as Melcior dons a plastic sheet, like a cheap Halloween ghost costume, and watches videos of the North Korean Arirang Festival with Miquel, blown up on the big screen and impossible to look away from. Meanwhile, a voiceover equates the inescapability of conforming to the North Korean dictatorship to the sense of comfort one gains as they dance to EDM music in a club, questioning whether freedom truly exists.

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Boldly artistic and wildly imaginative, All In ultimately succeeds in exposing the subtle ways in which we’ve already been subject to mob mentality and the fear of missing out on the inherent happiness of belonging to a group, lest we face the demons of our own insignificance as individuals. The very best absurdist plays often leave audience members stunned, confused and even a little angry. All In left us shaken with its unusually portrayed hard truths, paranoid over our true sense of agency, and haunted by its perfectly scripted showstopper of a final scene.

Performance attended 19/1/18

All In plays at the Esplanade Recital Studio till 20th January. Tickets available from SISTIC

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