Theatre review - Who Killed My Father

ÉDOUARD Louis’ book, Who Killed My Father, is a letter from a son to his father. Translated and adapted for the stage by Belgian director Ivo van Hove, it’s performed as a 90-minute monologue in English by Dutch actor Hans Kesting. A truly European collaboration and a play for our times.

Growing up in a small industrial town in the north of France, Louis is derided by his working-class, macho father for being effeminate.

The first hour of van Hove’s hypnotic production explores the hesitant love that grows between father and son – despite their differences. Gradually Louis’ homophobic father, worn down by gruelling manual labour and alcohol, comes to accept his gay son and even to indulge him in small ways.

Eventually Louis moves to Paris to study and becomes an acclaimed writer. His father is laid off work after an industrial accident mangles his spine and leaves him on benefits and in despair.

Suddenly, Who Killed My Father becomes a polemic about how the French state failed Louis’ father (and those like him), effectively leaving him to rot, shaving money off his benefits, denying him the meds he needed, cutting his disability allowance to push him into work, changing laws to make it easier to sack people in low paid jobs.

“If you don’t work, you don’t belong.” Severely hampered by ill-health, his father becomes a street sweeper.

The stage is bare except for an unmade bed, an old television set, an oxygen tank, and a pockmarked grey-black wall – marked by punches, we learn.

There are many striking images in van Hove’s production that convey a mood or emotion more than words can: Louis’ father spotlit as he stands by an open door chain-smoking and coughing his guts out is one; a broken man lying on a bed strewn with black ash is another.

A towering performance and resonant political theatre. 

Until September 24 

Orignally publshed by Camden New Journal