Atresbandes: Solfatara, photo Alex Brenner

Atresbandes: Solfatara

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Your deepest fear, your id, your shadow self, the little devil inside you. Call it what you will, it’s here to stay – so at home that it’s in its pyjamas (although sporting a balaclava to remind you that that it may take you hostage at any moment).

Cue couple at dinner. Do you like the puff pastry, she asks, I made it myself. Yes, he replies. No you don’t, says our balaclava’d friend. You don’t, you hate the dinner, you hate the puff pastry, you hate the smell of it, even – and you hate the smell of her because she smells of puff pastry. Tell her, it says. TELL HER. And so he does…

And thus we’re off to a rip-roaring start as the argument progresses, growing more and more surreal, more and more sulphuric. Better the devil you know? Not if the person you think you know turns out to be someone completely other. We march on relentlessly (to the tune of Mozart’s Turkish March), the fast-paced exchanges translated by surtitles that occasionally rebel: ‘Puff pastry recipe: no translation needed’ and ‘typical couple discussion: no translation needed’, they bleat sulkily.

But it’s not all hot air, it’s also explosive physicality, our three performers (him, her, it) tussling and tangling their way through the various confrontations and pairings. I love a moment where Balaclava strokes her hair in consolation as she sits nursing the wounds inflicted by him, spurred on by it.

Halfway or so in there’s a great switch in tone as the dinner table disappears and we are transported to a red-light limbo of subverted desires, the balaclava’d one becoming a puppet master playing with his very own living dolls.

Solfatara is the work of Catalan company Atresbandes, from Barcelona. It won the both first prize and audience prize at the BE (Birmingham European) festival and is presented at the Edinburgh Fringe under BE’s auspices, one of a quartet of quality European shows under that umbrella.

Riotously rude, ferociously funny, outrageously honest  – a very clever take on dark clown by a trio of terrifyingly gifted performers.

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Dorothy Max Prior

About Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior is the editor of Total Theatre Magazine, and is also a performer, writer, dramaturg and choreographer/director working in theatre, dance, installation and outdoor arts. Much of her work is sited in public spaces or in venues other than regular theatres. She also writes essays and stories, some of which are published and some of which languish in bottom drawers – and she teaches drama, dance and creative non-fiction writing.