Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Who Killed My Father is based on Édouard Louis’s 2018 autobiographical novel, Qui a tué mon père. Adapted and directed by Nora Wardell, it’s an eviscerating piece. Part polemic, part memoir, this monologue is presented as an address to Édouard (Michael Marcus)’s invisible father, thus casting the audience in the paternal role. It’s an interesting conceit.
Édouard’s father is disabled, thanks to his (literally) back-breaking work in a factory. But Édouard’s relationship with his dad is complicated: although he feels sympathy for the dependent old man he has become, he remains angry with the alcoholic homophobe, who made growing up gay in their small French village so very difficult. Still, now that he is an adult, Édouard is able to take a step back, and finally recognise the systemic inequalities that have shaped his father’s destiny, and to extrapolate from that the myriad ways in which so many marginalised people’s lives are damaged by political figures, uncaring and oblivious to the consequences of their acts. This play – where he denunciates these figures – is Édouard’s revenge.
It’s a compelling idea, but – for me – it doesn’t quite come off. For starters, there’s nothing to indicate that we’re in France until the very end, when a number of French politicians are named and shamed. This should be a powerful moment, but instead it momentarily confuses me, so that I’m mentally relocating the story rather than focusing on the point being made. In addition, the stage is cluttered with a vast array of props that just aren’t used, including a fabulously complex Scalextric. (I only had the figure-eight version when I was young; this one is the stuff of dreams, so it’s particularly frustrating that it’s given such prominence but never called into play.)
In the end, the message feels a little muddled, lost in a scattershot of anecdotes and directorial flourishes.