The best graphic novels and comic books always have an element of performance about them. Despite the images being static and appearing on a page, still illustrations can be infused with kinetic energy and movement and ultimately tell brilliant and fantastical stories. Therefore taking a graphic novel and attempting to present it on a stage can be a very difficult task. Last Call looks to do this by projecting illustrated images on the back drop of the theatre space in Summerhall and augment these projections with live music and evocative narration.
Belgian illustrator Philip Parquet provides the images of Last Call. His black and white ink sketches emphatically present the complicated psychology of an unnamed teenage runaway as she tries to make a new life for herself in the big city. It is a typical fish out of water narrative, but this tale is told in a unique and innovative method that bring the illustrations to life and imaginatively presents a new method in graphic storytelling. As the images are displayed on the backdrop the audience hear the powerful and descriptive words of Sarah Vertongen. She replaces the speech balloons, captions and thought bubbles with words and adds an engaging spoken word element to the show. The soundtrack is provided by Joris Calumaerts, who blends musical genre and styles to underline the themes of confusion and frustration.
Even with the excellent narration and the sensitive soundtrack it is the illustrations that take centre stage. Mundane images where our protagonist is hidden in the background of a bar are infused with character and intrigued. The audience is drawn into the imagery as we try and spot the teenage girl amongst the hustle and bustle. This in-turn draws us into the scene, where we feel part of the story and completely immersed in this vivid illustrated world.
Last Call is an original piece of visual storytelling. It is refreshing to see someone use the language of comic books and marge this with a theatre performance to present a mature and thoughtful story. No superheroes are referenced and no typical over the top comic book tropes are called upon. Last Call is pure storytelling using sequential images and a lot of imagination.