Ivo van Hove is renowned for his Off-Broadway, avant-garde experimental theatre productions. Here he has taken Edouard Louis’ autobiographical novel Qui a tué mon père (Who Killed My Father) and adapted it for the stage, turning it into a 90-minute monologue performed by Hans Kesting.

Credit: Jan Versweyveld

Jan Versweyveld’s set is a dank and dark cell with punch marks on the wall and a floor littered with cigarette butts. There’s a single bed, a tv and an oxygen canister in the corner. The lighting compliments the set wonderfully and creates a tense atmosphere. There is minimal use of props and staging changes, the play relies purely on Kesting’s performance which is powerful and poignant.

Through a smoke-filled doorway, Kesting’s towering figure enters the stage. What follows is a one-man performance of a monologue centred around his father, who is still living, despite what the name of the play suggests, but he is the shell of the person he once was. Kesting’s character has just returned to his hometown in Northern France, after an extended absence. His father is barely recognisable following an accident at his industrial job, sickness and alcoholism.

Kesting at times takes on the role of the father, to which he brings a physicality to, shuffling across the stage with the dysfunctional breathing of someone with an advanced respiratory condition. He takes frequent cigarette breaks which induce a hacking of the lungs.

Kesting’s character is gay and had to survive a childhood with a violent father that is the textbook definition of toxic masculinity. He takes the audience on a journey of the challenging events of his youth. Clearly a child of the 90s, pop culture from this decade is incorporated into the script. A disco ball is suspended from the ceiling as Kesting sings and dances to Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’. The tv on stage displays Jack and Rose in Titanic – most likely on VHS.

Credit: Jan Versweyveld

Kesting is entrancing in his performance. I was hooked from the first word he uttered until he took his bow. His performance reeled you in, dug claws in and kept you there for the full run time.

Who Killed My Father displays a complex father-son relationship. One in which the son is begging for attention and acceptance from his parent and is never quite sure if his father loves him. It’s a gut wrenchingly intense show and changes gear in the last 10 minutes.

Up until this point the show had focused on Kesting’s character and his life and struggles. But at the end of the play Kesting addresses the audience directly and talks about the injustices of the French Government and their treatment of the working class. The line ‘the ruling class may complain about the left- or right-wing government but the government never breaks their back’ felt poignant and apt for the situation we as a society find ourselves in currently. The words of this speech are raw and honest and Kesting’s passion and anger is relatable and a powerful thing to behold.

Apart from some minor pacing issues in the middle, Who Killed My Father is an outstanding thought-provoking piece of theatre that feels incredibly timely.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Who Killed My FatherYoung VicUntil the 24th September 2022


{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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