FringeReview Scotland 2023
In an adaptation by Nora Waddell of an autobiographical novel by Edouard Louis, Edouard himself is onstage to discuss the title of his novel – Who Killed My Father? Describing his upbringing and his relationship with a father who appeared to struggle with his son’s sexuality and blossoming as a man, the monologue gives a sense of the structural homophobia suffered by the son and perpetuated by the father. Having become invalided from his employment, the father is then confronted by the support his son has to give him. Towards the end of the monologue, son castigates and harangues the politicians responsible in France for the removal or reduction of the support his father needs: hence the conclusion, that it was the politicians who killed his father.
This is a simple version of a very complex issue. From the beginning of the relationship between father and son, there are issues around connections between them which they cannot make so that his father may guide his life. These are portrayed with skill by Michael Marcus as our guide, Edouard. Everything that Marcus delivers provides us with an assured and engaging presence onstage. He has mastered the art directly addressing us, and though, huis father makes no appearance, the essence of him hangs above and around Edouard himself. This is within the context of a very challenging task – portraying a relationship whilst being the only one able to relate it to the audience. The characterization of Edouard is clear and measured as Marcus proves himself to be both a highly effective and relatable raconteur and the embodiment of a man wracked by contradictions.
Being an adaptation for the stage, the question of it being theatrical is, however, quite a different question. With the pace of the piece being just as measured it tends to the ponderous. Shades get lost as Marcus manages to bring in his mother and father, which could have been more dramatically realised but are introduced and moved swiftly on from. There is a calmness in amongst the suggested, hinted at chaos – it is that complexity, having been abused by his father’s views, before finding that his father’s own upbringing made him as much a captive of his environment as he made his son. I wanted more of that drama at the edge of this emotionally dramatic monologue.
Theatre arts were employed with the set suggested a domestic muddle more than bliss whilst the use of shadow onstage was particularly illuminating. I did find the direction missed some of the possibilities of tonal contrast making it an academically challenging piece more than a theatrical masterpiece.
I believe it needed to have more light and dark as the initial horror of the rejection suffered by Edouard is not quite laid bare and the triumph of being able to survive it not quite celebrated – and in what may be an emotional trilogy, the anger of realising how we fail to escape from the cloaks of respectability left for us by generations before, and policy makers of today, fell a little short. It makes it stuck in relying on the words, which is no bad thing, but they too tend towards the simple whilst I was hoping for some more emotional connection.
Perhaps, given some of the circumstances in which the LGBTQ community find themselves this is interesting as it is not shouting from any rooftop but within the piece is a very complex and massively important message. That it was slightly muted helps us to contemplate the issues, but it could have illuminated more to give platform to the tragedy of being unable to be yourself, whilst ending up, having to look after your abuser by the end. It was, however, worthy of contemplation.