Author Didier Eribon’s 2009 memoir of growing up in working-class France forms the basis of this mesmerizing play at Manchester International Festival. It is both an exploration of his coming out as a gay man and a searing political treatise on the present day.

Eribon departed Reims to become one of Paris’s leading intellectuals. Since then the provincial masses everywhere, he argues, have been abandoned by their supposed leaders – the likes of Mitterrand, Blair, and Schröder – paving the way for the rise of the Front National and later Brexit and President Trump.

Leading German director Thomas Ostermeier’s adaptation of Eribon’s hometown return following his father’s death is brought to Manchester in collaboration with Berlin’s Schaubühne theatre.

In one of the most keenly anticipated commissions of the festival, Ostermeier employs large scale video projection, archive footage and even rap to skilfully augment the long passages of intense monologue.

The book is brilliantly updated and made relevant to a British audience. Set in a claustrophobic recording studio it features Homeland star Nina Hoss who is voicing the memoir for a budget film. Her smoky, seductive tones carry the audience effortlessly through the more inaccessible realms of Eribon’s theorising.

Hoss is an all-powerful, hypnotic force on stage who brings an uncanny naturalness to her performance. Her sparring with opportunistic film maker Bush Moukarzel is very funny as the two engage in a passive-aggressive battle for artistic control of the project.

Ostermeier also adds a revealing and moving coda from Hoss’s own life describing how her communist father became a campaigner in the Amazon rainforest.

This post has been reposted with permission from iNews. It originally appeared on July 11th 2017.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.

This post was written by Jonathan Brown.

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