Barroux presents the world première performance of Alpha, a son-et-lumière dramatic realisation of his powerful graphic novel, launched at Edinburgh International Book Festival in the English language for the first time. Alpha tells the story of a West African migrant who leaves Ivory Coast to find his family in France. Thus unfolds a tragic, unforgettable tale about the hopes and perils of migration.
“Choice is a luxury.”
Alpha is simple and to the point. All actor Thierry Lawson – Alpha – has is the clothes on his back, a chair, and an artist to his left, and together on a bare stage they take you along on his journey to a (hopefully) better life, once he’s tracked down his family.
The screen behind them projects everything Barroux illustrates, plucking presumed images out of his graphic novel and recreating them seamlessly on the stage in time with Thierry’s narrative beat. He’s passive as Alpha talks to the audience, to the sky – on occasion breaking the fourth (fifth?) wall and asking the illustrator himself for help.
Barroux provides more than a backdrop, he provided paper animations, he provided props, crafted from a sketchpad and dose of ink and handed casually across the stage. It’s the aloof way in which they interact that kind of seals it. They’re separate, but together, but not, but they sort of are. I just like it, okay? There was the occasional technical and timing issue, but tiny blips in an otherwise excellent hour.
Alpha is part of the book festival’s migrant stories series, and it’s an enthralling, at times moving way to showcase the stark realities of the experience, the hoops that people have to jump through, the desperate measures they turn to, to find a better life. It’s important to give these stories a platform, and this is a shining example of interesting ways to bring them to new audiences. Alpha himself notes as he reaches a moment where he needs to make a leap of faith into a boat that the point to choose has passed – choice is a luxury.
It’s not all bad or desperate times – there’s some light, some fun, some touching moments. It’s a graphic novel come to life in a wonderful way, interactive between all the parts involved. It’s a really great production. What a delight to see the world premiere.
With translator Sarah Ardizzone and actor Thierry Lawson. Musical supervision by Carole Mendy. Publisher, Barrington Stoke.