Review: Who Killed My Father, Young Vic

Hans Kesting continues a stellar year of performances in his latest Ivo van Hove collaboration to hit the UK – Who Killed My Father at the Young Vic

“My memories are of what didn’t take place”

Not to be that guy but I loved Hans Kesting first 😉 From the very first time I saw him in 2009 in the spectacular Roman Tragedies (with a broken leg), I declared him my Best Actor of the Year and ever since, I’ve sought out as much of his work as I could see as part of the peerless Internationaal Theater Amsterdam ensemble. That creative relationship with Ivo van Hove is one which has worked much magic and so this solo show feels an inevitable result.

Who Killed My Father is an adaptation of Édouard Louis’ 2018 blistering autobiographical novel, examining Louis’ fractious relationship with his father. Growing up gay in northern France was no small feat (as already explored here) but in a household dominated by the violence of his racist and homophobic father, the shadow of toxic masculinity and class inequality looms large over these complex family dynamics.

The brutality is often breathtaking and to call Kesting’s work in embodying both son and father a tour-de-force doesn’t feel enough, especially when you consider he’s not even acting in his mother tongue. The wrenching anguish of the son is deepened by its proximity to the brusqueness of the father, the intensity of both almost shattering in their acuity. But it is not just emotional poverty at play here, there’s physical poverty too due to an industrial accident. 

The play is a little less surefooted late on, in how it shifts its focus from personal to political in order to address the institutional failures around the poor and disabled. The heavyhandedness of the message blunts the ultimate sharpness of the production but in some ways it is almost a relief from its harrowing depths. Jan Versweyveld’s lighting and design adds to its painfully stunning starkness, sparse yet crucially detailed, this is theatre at its best. 

Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Jan Versweyveld
Who Killed My Father is booking at the Young Vic until 24th September

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