Based on the book by Édouard Louis, translated by Lorin Stein
Adapted and Directed by Nora Wardell
Politics is a life or death game – a chess board where the hands moving the players know not the weight they wield.
Surrogate production’s touring piece, Who Killed My Father, is based on Édouard Louis’ (translated by Lorin Stein) Qui a tué mon père (a direct translation). The name may be familiar to many, as Louis’ best-known work, The End of Eddy has had two successful adaptations at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2018, and 2022. The familiar ringing of fury behind the writing presents itself just as affectingly this time around, but Louis makes no allegory or representation of the once left-leaning regions of France, deteriorating into an extreme right under waves of poverty and neglect.
There’s less of a mystery in who committed the crimes against Louis’ father and the thousands of others in these small towns in Northern France. Louis knows who is responsible for this death – and intends to hold them accountable. A working man, put out of his job by severe injury and age, forced back into work after having his back broken, finds himself broken again and again under the weight of callous political decisions which saw thousands of ill-abled forced into manual labour. The likes of Sarkozy, Hollande, and current President, Emanuel Macron, are not figurative heads for blame but genuinely accountable for the death, no, the murder of Louis’ father. Their ‘mugshots’, plastered, on the projection screen behind Marcus throughout the performance.
But to tell the story of how Louis’ father came to an end, we must first traverse their relationship and the impact made. It’s a bold portrayal from Marcus, one of resentment, but equally a genuine and nuanced demonstration of the idiom: a love-hate relationship. We never question the devotion and love for their unnamed father, even as his son’s sexuality made him an outsider – their father turning to the extremes of violence, social intolerance, and substance abuse.
An almost polite performance, one where the fire and fury are not spoken in harsh tones or words – but more chillingly, and accurately, bathed in a coldness pitched far higher than any unnecessary outbursts, Nora Wardell’s direction of the adaptation maintains the power of word throughout – all aided by Marcus’ tremendously fluid performance across the short run-time. It’s strikingly unforced, especially given the vitriol subject matter and motion involved, the audience has no qualms in following Marcus’ magnetic performance of vulnerability without melodrama.
Streamlined and thrifty, there is no sense of grandeur – the theatricality of the performance exists in the sublime writing and emotions which Marcus draws from the script. It’s direct – a triumphant mixture of the political and the personal, with a soupcon of the riotous thrown in for good measure. Blythe Brett and Hazel Low’s design work speckles the stage with remnants of Marcus’ time spent with his father, items with a passing mention throughout the monologue, but each possessing significant weight. Few are utilised outside of their visual presence, but their crucial significance to Louis’ life and experiences is always present.
Billed at seventy-five minutes, Who Killed My Father runs closer to the hour mark; adapted from a streamlined text, it makes for a compact piece. The finale reaches a curter conclusion than some may imagine – especially as Marcu’s performance never transcends to the more traditional (and frankly overplayed) crescendo of emotion. But what it makes for is a far more impactful moment of solidarity – nothing instilling quite as much fear and clarity for the French police than a simple image: a hi-vis vest and someone with nothing to lose.
But outside of France, surrogate productions’ touring piece is universal – especially in these times of monosyllabic politics. Who Killed My Father is tightly conceived and executed, deserving of its sell-out run at the Traverse Theatre, and an exquisite piece of stagecraft to catch elsewhere in Scotland.
Who Killed My Father ran at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, from May 11th – 12th.
Running time – seventy-five minutes. Suitable for ages 12+
For additional information relating to surrogate productions, and Who Killed My Father tour dates, please visit their website here.
Photo Credit – Emily Macinnes