Last Call

Angst. Millennial or Generation X — we don’t know, but it’s definitely angst. A teen has run away from her Belgian home because she doesn’t feel connected to life or herself. She’s not intent on doing anything while on the run; she’s more interested in slinking through the doors of bars and stranger’s apartments, though she can’t shake the yearn for home. This is graphic novelist Phillip Parquet and director Adriaan Van Aken’s new work, Last Call.

It's knowingly still, reaching for a clipped, noir style heavy on internal monologue, but it plods to a deathly march

It’s an ode to uncertainty, so it should fit well with the flighty spirit of the Fringe, where companies stake careers on unfixed notices. It should also fit the bill of Summerhall’s Big in Belgium series: it’s big, it’s Belgian and it’s attempting something cutting-edge in form. Last Call, in its live form at least, is a comic book projected onto a screen, and in segments sized so the audience can keep up. There’s a man playing piano and guitar. There’s also Sara Vertongen, narrating and foleying when she can. Vertogen’s got a pleasant, dulcet delivery, and she’s not the problem. The form is. Despite feeling new, it’s not enough to make the work dramatically credible.

Parquet’s creations are vast. The idea is that the roving of your eyes should substitute for the movement normally associated with theatre, helped by the instruments, the sound effects and Vertogen’s voice. It’s all too slow-paced, though. Of course, it is knowingly still, reaching for a clipped, noir style heavy on internal monologue, but it plods to a deathly march. It’s not succoured by story, either. Last Call is what an older demographic thinks a newer one feels, and that perception is hopelessly vague and impotent. Moreover, it reveals a depressing disconnect between adjacent generations. The only aspect that doesn’t disenchant is Parquet’s drawings: great scapes of black-and-white zeal. Whatever this live version is, it doesn’t serve his vision.

Het nieuwstedelijk’s Last Call straddles theatre and comic books, and strains itself in the process. The novelty of the form and the room for improvement means I’ll catch what they put on next year; just know that it didn’t work this time around.

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The Blurb

A teenage girl runs away from home to the city. Nobody notices, but is there actually someone looking out for her? Belgium’s foremost graphic novel artist, Philip Parquet, and playwright/director Adriaan Van Aken’s urban adult comic book is brought vividly to life, fusing together live voices, dynamic video, projection, sound and music into a thrilling after-dark fantasia of theatre and art. From the producers of Summerhall hits Tourniquet (2013), Looking for Paul (2014) and The Great Downhill Journey of Little Tommy (2015), you won’t want to miss this year’s new late-night cult Fringe show.