Young Vic Theatre, London – until 24 September 2022
I can now say I’ve seen Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio on stage. OK, so they were on telly on stage, but that is technically on stage. Kate and Leo were in Titanic mode, the favourite film of the son in Who Killed My Father. His homophobic father initially refuses to get him the video for his birthday.
Father and son are both played by Hans Kesting in this Ivo van Hove adaptation of Édouard Louis’ novel. The son is visiting his dying father and reflecting on his life, what shaped him and ultimately brought him to an untimely death.
Kesting differentiates the two using postures, cigarette breaks and stuffing fists up his jumper to indicate a protruding belly. He flits seamlessly from one to the other. There are shifts in energy too, the play covering childhood, teens, adulthood and middle age.
It’s a punchy 90-minute play that feels a little like a whodunnit, with the suspects being parents, culture, class and politics. While it is set in France, there is a lot that resonates about the struggles the poor face here in the UK and how the most minor political decision can make a huge difference – for good or bad.
It’s also an interesting exploration of toxic masculinity and how that gets passed down and reinforced by society. It shows the devastating impact it has on the father and his prospects – toeing the line at school is seen as a feminine or homosexual trait.
But this isn’t a simple story of an emotionally abusive father who can’t hide his shame about his son’s lack of ‘masculine’ traits. There are family treats, the Titanic video and singalongs to Celine Dion in the car.
The father also experiences a good dose of misfortunate, which makes life even more difficult despite his best efforts.
Kesting’s delivery is slow and considered, reserving bursts for youthful energy. It makes for an effective contrast in mood and tone, although the pace does drag a little in a couple of places. He doesn’t always play to the audience, so at times it feels voyeuristic.
At one point, Kesting disappears from view if you are sitting to the left of the stage, but it isn’t for very long He spends a bit of time sitting on a bed which is stage left, but I’m not sure if that affects the view if you are in seats that are to the far right.
Who Killed My Father presents some interesting ideas about the agency poor people have over their own lives, and the way society both helps and hinders. It’s subtle but powerful, and I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Who Killed My Father, Young Vic
Adapted from Édouard Louis’ book by Ivo Van Hove
Directed by Ivo Van Hove
Running time: 90 minutes without an interval.
Booking until 24 September; visit the Young Vic website for more details and tickets.
Silence, Donmar Warehouse⭐️⭐️⭐️
Cruise, Apollo Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Monster, Park Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Theatre coming up soon:
The Clinic, Almeida Theatre, Rose, Park Theatre and The Crucible, Almeida
Adblock test (Why?)