If you like feeling confused, lost and like you’ve just landed in a drug-infused dream sequence, you may enjoy All In. It professes to be an ‘exploration of the millennial condition’, an abstract representation of tyranny’s hold over the individual, but resembles more of a lucid fantasy world in which millennials speak like Teletubbies and frequently misplace their pants. Is a deeper message being conveyed here? It doesn’t matter; All In is so preoccupied with being intangible that it completely falls apart at the seams.
It begins with something you might hear your dad let slip at a family barbecue: ‘I’ve been thinking about renting a storage room’. The line is said so monotonically, so sincerely, you immediately brace yourself for a punchline. It never arrives. Instead, the conversation is heaved over the shoulder of Mònica Almirall Batet with a bland request for more information; alas, we learn more about the storage room. As if to really drive home the sinking dullness that permeates this exchange, Almirall Batet and storage-seeking Albert Pérez Hidalgo are clad head to toe in a monochromatic wall of grey.
All of this makes for a drab start indeed, one which is echoed by an equally drab ending. And the filling in this melancholy sandwich of tedium? A scrimmage of bizarre, toneless episodes that try to showcase the feeling of being an oddball.
If one were to try to salvage some sort of plot from this play, it would be the quest to cook up some lunch in Hidalgo’s apartment. All four characters, three of which could be mistaken for robots in beta-testing, head back to his place. In the kitchen, they are introduced to every utensil and appliance with a ‘This is my fridge/drawer/microwave’ while Hidalgo draws the outline of a box in thin air. This brief culinary adventure is interspersed with random educational nuggets, such as ‘you must close the fridge before you open the freezer’ (lest we contribute to the impending progression of global warming, obviously). Despite the ridiculousness of it all, everything the cast do is carried out in a completely deadpan manner. It is a run-on joke of forced delivery and simple dialogue, but runs on for so long the bad acting appears more genuine than self-mocking, and quickly becomes rather tiresome.
Within 20 minutes of the kitchen debacle, half the cast are naked, one has thrown up on a chicken, the same one has thrown up on a pizza, and someone has pulled out a gun because, hell, why not? Such is the tone of the play, approximating a Year 8 drama class, yet never progressing beyond the point of the purely physical. Only Cube.bz’s stunning projections and powerful visuals indicate that this is a professional production. It is shocking, bemusing and droll in equal measure; in fact, I probably left the theatre 10 pounds lighter, given that I have never contorted my face into so many shapes within the space of one short hour.
At this level of preposterous, you would expect many moments to ripple with a deeper meaning, but the script tends to conceal the message under several folds of ambiguity. Granted, there is a lot to be said for plays that force their audience to think critically. However, when a production is shrouded in a mishmash of directionless dialogue, you wonder if there was a message there to begin with, or if the creatives just hope the audience come up with one for themselves.
As for the creators of this inexplicable spectacle, they must at least be commended for the belief they hold in their own project. A young company from Barcelona, ATRESBANDES decided to take their contemporary theatre international, and it is no mean feat to act in another language. Sadly, the play pushes the limits of the abstract so far that it is difficult to claw a meaningful message from any of its scenes. Instead, I left the theatre confused, uncomfortable and in serious need of a lie down.
All In played The New Diorama Theatre until 11 Nov 2017.