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Atresbandes’ All In review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘wickedly funny’

Atresbandes' All In at Summerhall, Edinburgh
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All In sets out to clobber you on more than one level: it’s at once a social comedy exploring the pressures on the individual to conform, a screed on the skewed political balance in the Disunited States of Europe, or simply a wonderful hour of high-functioning clowning laced with satire.

Bookending this devised piece from Barcelona’s Atresbandes are observations on North Korea’s Arirang Mass Games, an extraordinarily coordinated mass movement and flip card mosaic of more than 100,000 performers. Taking that herd instinct as its cue, a string of vignettes riff on the same theme.

There’s a deadpan dialogue about personal coaches, extraordinarily expressive despite its use of black stocking masks and wigs to obliterate the features of the interlocutors. Schiller’s poem Ode to Joy is recited alongside a wall of blue and red smoke to the strains of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony while a voice-over explains that it’s not actually the official anthem of Europe. Meanwhile a group enacting a community workshop proves to be too happy-clappy for one of its members, while the others rapidly alienateg him with arguments over mimed chopped onions and vomit.

Always with an eye on the laughs, the quartet wickedly push serious questions of identity and happiness within today’s shifting social landscapes. Here the quirkily delivered message is that to achieve harmony perhaps we all need a touch of dictatorship now and then.

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Devised sketches that wickedly combine comedy with some tough questions