Review: Alpha Who?, Cockpit Theatre

When entering a theatre, we think of where we are, who populates this location and what story we are going to be told. In the case of Alpha Who? we enter a very local place, somewhere so local it only belongs to one person, and that person is Matt Franco.

In his one man show, Franco offers a scatter-brained approach to what it is to be a man. He uses three main tools. Firstly, his abstractly painted boards that offer metaphors and obscurity of the soul. Secondly, dance to elevate emotions of being and living. And finally, spoken word to tie it all together, spewing elegant and well-crafted poems and points of view that add a  layer of texture to his performance.

At its best, the show is erratic and nerve-jerking, with beautifully crafted words on offer to guide you through the question of masculinity. However, at its worst it becomes tedious and boring, lacking any direction and purpose.

We begin with Franco entering with one of his boards and eventually trying to kill himself. With his dad among the statistic of eighty-four men who take their own life every week in the UK, Franco hopes to use the audience as the face of his late father in order to discover how he could live his last day with such happiness and yet kill himself with such ease? And more pressingly, why can’t he achieve the same?

Franco touches on some worthwhile ideas through this journey and adds serenity through his poetic tone. These questions include whether men survive because they are men, or are they men because they survive? And how much feminine is acceptable in men? 

While the play focuses on male toxicity, it does also consider society and the way we’re so insulted by smells but extremely tolerant of sounds, most namely, words, which we spew up in the hope of discovery.  While interesting, this works against Franco as it makes me consider that very thought. 

When dancing, Franco stutters and stalls his words and motions. The first time, this is impressive and impactful offering an insight into the erratic nature of his psyche, but after forty minutes this impact wares off. Perhaps Franco would be better off including more music as this helps guide the scatter of his movements, offering a new aspect to the same trick.

While Franco is the only face on stage, Sabio Janiak scores the piece well and the lighting team made up of Naia Burucoa, Franco, Gail Sixsmith and Saverio Tonoli offer effective aspects to the piece. 

 Overall, Franco deserves praise. There’s no doubt he’s a fine poet and writer as well as an impressive performer using light to his advantage. However, on this occasion he would be better off with some other actors or at the very least a genuine story to invest in.

As the performance grows to a close, it seems there will be no answer for Franco’s impressive ramblings, no truth in what it is to be an alpha. However, his final movement turns this on its head and for that split second this scatter performance makes perfect sense.

Alpha Who? played the Cockpit until 9 August. For more information, see The Cockpit website.