top of page

Review: Qui a tué mon père (Who killed my father) at Dunstan Playhouse

Review by Kate Gaul

Writer and philosopher Édouard Louis takes to the stage in “Qui a tué mon père (Who killed my father)”, a deeply personal work directed by acclaimed theatre-maker Thomas Ostermeier. 

Growing up as a young gay man in the French provinces, Édouard Louis long held a deep disgust for his violent, alcoholic father, whose homophobic outbursts plagued his childhood.  

His book “Qui a tué mon père”, on which the solo performance is based, caused a sensation in France and internationally, and led to Thomas Ostermeier inviting him to the Schaubühne Berlin to stage it as a piece of theatre.  Using the broken body of his seriously ill father as a starting point, Édouard Louis undertakes a defiant rewrite of the recent political and social history of France. “Qui a tué mon père (Who killed my father)” examines France’s neglect of the working class and contempt for the poor, accusing the country’s upper classes and political operators of negligent homicide, even murder. 

The festival program tells us that this is “both a polemic against the class system and an intimate love letter.” And that “Qui a tué mon père (Who killed my father)” is an indignant and impassioned piece of autobiographical theatre from one of France’s most influential young writers”. Given that Adelaide also hosts a writer’s festival at this time of year, audiences are getting a double whammy with this production.

So, who killed his father? The writer knows who: the successive French governments of Chirac, Sarkozy, Hollande, and Macron. By cutting and restricting access to welfare and disability benefits (and humiliating those who rely on them), those governments and presidents ‘broke my father’s back all over again’ after he was disabled by an industrial accident, condemning him to work as a street cleaner ‘bent over all day and cleaning up other people’s trash’. 

The performance is quiet, smooth, and very accomplished. Édouard Louis holds us for 90 minutes.  It has none of the theatrical bravado of an “actor”. It’s played on a simple set of table, chair and armchair. Behind him the muted monochrome projections (from videographers Sebastien Dupouey and Marie Sanchez) locate us in the vicinity of Hallencourt in Northern France, close to the infamous Somme, where Louis (aka Eddy Bellegueule) grew up in a toxic, violent, homophobic family and spent every fibre of his being escaping it at the age of 18.

It’s ultimately a strange production – often humorous but largely distanced monologue and obviously an abridged version of a book (which I guess we can go read for ourselves).  It eschews theatricality and yet it feels right to present this as theatre.  Let’s face it, director Ostermeier is no slouch! The story is mostly compelling but it’s a bit of a stretch to conflate misogyny, homophobia, and classism as racism as our speaker does early in the piece. And the final scenes of dressing up in the children’s cape and party hat to name and shame the French politicians felt passe. Whatever your experience of “Qui a tué mon père (Who killed my father)” audiences leap to their feet shouting “Bravo!” – I guess this is what festivals are all about.

Image Supplied


bottom of page