Review: Who Killed My Father @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Who Killed My Father - Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh - Review at

“In all a compact, and compelling piece…a refreshingly direct call to change.” Michael Marcus impresses in Surrogate Productions, ‘Who Killed My Father’.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

📍 Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
📅 11 May – 12 May 2023
🕖 2.30pm / 7:30pm
🕖 Running time: 75 minutes Minutes (no interval)
🖊️ Author: Édouard Louis
✏️ Adaptor and Director: Nora Wardell
🛠️ Set & Costume Co-Designers: Hazel Low & Blythe Brett
💡 Lighting Designer: Joshua Gadsby
🔊 Sound Designer and Composer: XANA
🎦 Dramaturg: Matthew Evans
🎂 16+
🎭 Wheelchair Accessible Venue, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets, Audio Induction Loop

Édouard Louis’s novel, Qui a tué mon père – Who Killed My Father, translated by Lorin Stein and adapted and directed for stage by Nora Wardell finally arrives in Edinburgh. Édouard, played by Michael Marcus has/had a complex relationship with his father, a working class inheritor of strongly traditional views on masculinity, and right-wing sensibilities. When a child, nascently gay Louis couldn’t understand a parent who loved him one day, and despised him the next; couldn’t reconcile his mother’s stories of his hyper conservative, homophobic dad as a younger man known for his kindness, for taking pride in his appearance, and tearing it up on the dance floor.

Michael Marcus in Who Killed My Father ©️ Emily Macinnnes Review at
Michael Marcus in Who Killed My Father ©️ Emily Macinnnes

Now grown, a successful novelist and openly gay, Louis has spent almost a decade interrogating his, and his parents’ formative years. Where the theatrical adaptation of his breakout novel,  En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule, focussed upon his own formative journey, Who Killed My Father is concerned with the pressures which shaped his dad, and the years of French legislative ‘reforms’ which punished his soul…and body.

The End of Eddy – EIF 2022 Review

Consistently surprising, innovative, and hugely thought provoking adaptation of Édouard Louis’ autobiographical novel. 📍Church Hill Theatre📅 Aug 19 – 21🕖 7:30pm🕖 Running time (approx.): 1 hours 30 minutes✍️ Based on the novel by: Édouard Louis’🗣️ Adapted & Directed by: Eline Arbo🎵 Music: Thijs van Vuure👥 Scenographer: Juul Dekker🎬 Dramaturg: Thomas Lamers💰 £20🎂 18+🎭 Wheelchair Accessible…

Marcus is excellent in this one-person production, a sympathetic, and believable avatar for Louis’s words. His father emerges gradually, a fully formed character complete with formative traumas, and a complex, nuanced life blighted by ‘masculine insanity’. Blending vignettes from Louis’ own memories with an inherited biography of his father’s own upbringing, the thesis is clear, ‘Your manhood condemned you to poverty, to lack of money…Hatred of homosexuality=poverty.”

Whilst there’s plenty of anger fuelling Marcus’s deeply human performance, this is a play concerned with understanding, and driven by love. Not a retrospective affection, but a life-long bond. Young Louis longed for days when his father’s car was not in the drive when returning from school, but still knew he could be relied upon to defend him from over-zealous police. Even then Louis understood that his dad was progressive in his unqualified adoption of his mother’s children from a former marriage.

Critically, Wardell’s adaptation leans into as much showing as possible, though a large degree of telling is inevitable. Family disputes are brought to life, conversations are enacted rather than reported, whilst an impromptu house concert given by young Edward forms part of the show’s narrative spine. This vignette, revisisted consistently, is a conduit to the past where our protagonist tries and tries again to get his father to really see him. Simultaneously it’s a space where the grown Louis can wonder what was in his dad’s mind, and in his heart.

Latterly the play switches focus, eschewing the memoir to make the case against those political decision-makers whom Louis holds responsible for mich of his father’s situation in life. Toxic ideals led his father to reject education, and to refuse any escape from a fate as a factory peon, but his life and gravely deteriorating health are equally a product of the political classes.

Detailing over a decade of French political reform, Louis names his culprits, from Jacques Chirac, through Sarkozy, to Macron. After an industrial accident ruined his father’s back, he was forced to labouor as a street sweeper by an unsympathetic social security system. When Chirac cut state support for medication, he could no longer afford the drugs keeping his digestive system in order. Continual attacks on the ‘lazy’ classes however meant he must keep working or starve. Now house-bound, on oxygen, and with a grossly herniated gut, this barely 50 year old is staring his end in the face.

The faces of the accused are pinned to the wall, a rogues gallery of neo-liberal ‘reformists’, a political class sailing above the effects of the legislation they impose on the less privileged. The play marches towards its conclusion fired with righteous anger, a challenge to right-wing idealogues, laden with a promise of revolution.Which isn’t to say the play ends on a bleak note, but what hope it finds only makes sense thanks to the deeply personal insights given earlier.

©️ Emily Macinnnes

In all a compact, and compelling piece, Who Killed My Father might feel just a touch disjointed as it switches gears, but it’s still a refreshingly direct call to change. Where most ‘message’ theatre implies the desires of the playwright, this is a simple castegation of the status quo, and a direct accusation of murder. Louis’s father is an accomplice in his own demise, but it’s not he but callous Governance which holds the murder weapon.

Who Killed My Father plays the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh until the 12th May 2023. It is presented by Surrogate Productions supported by the National Theatre through Creative Scotland and Cumbernauld Theatre.

Who Killed My Father plays the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh until the 12th May 2023. For tickets and more information, click here.

For more on the continuing work of ThickSkin Theatre, click here.