FATHERS by The Babel Company
Brixton House 5th - 17th of July
Review by Simone Gaumond
Papaoutai - Stromae
You cannot have a French play about fathers without this song. This classic as well as the music video is extremely fitting. The video is like it's own piece of art, much like the way performers Iannis Haillet and Laurent Barbot interact with their set. When the show starts, there's just a whiteboard, some tables, and a rack of hanging items, and by the end, the board, full of colours, pictures, and words tells its own story. And this story is actually an amalgamation of stories of fathers - loving, cold, and complicated. In the Papaoutai video, those characters also come alive. You see fathers working with their sons, others dancing with them, and others, completely ignoring them.
Grand Graçon - Marty de Lutece
I love this song for two reasons: it talks about the simplicity of being young and proves that some things just sound better in French. You just couldn't vibe to a song called "Big Boy" in the same way. FATHERS also tackles these things. From Haillet and Barbot, we learn about their own fathers, the fathers of their interviewees, and from fathers themselves. We all hated hearing, "You'll understand when you're older," but it rings true here. In one story, an adult son talks about how his father used to beat him, but it's only when he got older that he realised (trigger warning: abuse) that being tied by your arms and legs and then whipped with an actual whip was not how you were supposed to treat children. "Grand Garçon" the song doesn't actually go that deep, but it does touch on certain realisations you have when you grow up and life gets complicated. And going back to what I said about how some things just sound better in French, I wish FATHERS did a lot less translating. It makes sense for the bigger pieces of text, but "C'est bon?" and "Je comprends pas" sound better without their English translations following them.
Bon Acteur - Lous and the Yakuza
This is a bit of a stretch, but follow me here. "Bon Acteur" talks about an intoxicating liar, and while that is not Haillet and Barbot at all, there was a reveal towards the end that I did not see coming. Maybe it shouldn't have been surprising, but regardless, I loved it. And it just shows the strength of the dramaturgy of the show. Not only that, but it was great to see how this personally connected with both Haillet and Barbot. And if that sounds cryptic and confusing, much like the relationship dynamic in "Bon Acteur" that's on purpose. The reveal is just too sweet to give away, so you'll just have to see the show *wink, wink*.