Tron Theatre is home to the UK premiere of Who Killed My Father – an English adaptation of French writer Édouard Louis‘s memoir Qui a Tué Mon Père. It combines personal history with political commentary, piecing together a picture of Louis’s childhood growing up with homophobic parents in rural France. Simultaneously, it attempts to explore legislation in France that disadvantaged Louis’s father and drove him to an early grave.
Louis, played by Michael Marcus, speaks in second person throughout, addressing his father directly to recount various anecdotes from his youth, most of them involving cruelty and ridicule. There isn’t a clear order to these memories, but they combine to convey a vivid impression of Louis’s dysfunctional family, their chaotic interactions, and the particular disconnect between Louis and his father.
Marcus is a confident but gentle performer, most effective in the play’s tender moments. Even with the interestingly detailed set decoration – cinder blocks, a Scalextric set, a desk strewn with props – the focus lies firmly on the actor and his delivery. He uses every inch of the stage, walking behind a suspended backing screen, touching the theatre walls, and writing in chalk on a fire exit. It all makes the Tron’s Changing House feel bigger, stretching the space beyond the usual limits of a one-man play. This interaction with his surroundings exaggerates the storytelling nature of the show; there is an acknowledgement that everything on stage is a carefully prepared play thing for Marcus, with each object fulfilling a specific role in the unfolding of Louis’s story. The performance is also supported by effective lighting changes and the subtle use of music for humour, tension, and poignancy.
There’s a feeling of misbalance here, though. The final scene takes an overtly political turn that doesn’t quite blend with anything that has come before. It becomes clear why Louis is highlighting real-world political events in France but the incongruity does stand out. The relatively short running time also feels like a disservice to what is a psychologically complex topic; there is surely so much more of Louis’s complicated relationship with his father (and his father’s own backstory) to explore.
Nevertheless, Who Killed My Father is moving, engaging, and full of well-observed nostalgic 90s references. It also serves as an excellent vehicle for Marcus’s talent, even if there is a sense of unevenness in the text.