12 December 2018

Histoire de la violence

A few weeks ago, I found myself again in the Schaubühne, a theatre in the western part of Berlin. This time I dragged my spouse, who is a theatre fan, since I was here once and found their productions to be spectacular. And I must say this evening's show didn't disappoint.

Histoire de la violence is actually the title of a novel by Édouard Louis, a French writer. It is an autobiographical novel which chronicled his experience of being the victim of rape and attempted murder during the Christmas Eve of 2012. Using that event as a pivot, the novel discusses the nature of violence in society.

I have not read the novel, but only seen the theatre version of it. And I must say the show was a very powerful piece. There was only four actors on stage, plus a musician. I was especially amazed at the different "camera tricks" that the production did: there were several episodes of what I could call a "split screen", where there are two concurrently running scenes, and one actor is participating in both of them. Say, the main character was narrating some past event to some relative, and at the same time, that past event was being actively portrayed by the main character as well as by some other participating actor. And then the relative would comment and contradict the main character, saying that that isn't how that event went, and the past event would then be revised because of that comment. There is this weirdly interesting tension due to the fact that it isn't straightforward to figure out what exactly is the truth.

As I could imagine, given my previous experience in this theatre house, this production was a daring one. All three male actors were nude at some point. There was an onstage shower. There was simulated rape. The tension in the house was high. It's definitely not a production for children.

Overall, I must say that we both enjoyed it. It's a very complex production, and something that I could esteem highly from multiple angles.


  1. The name rings a bell... I'm going to try to find the book in French, thank you.

    1. Zhu,

      If I remember correctly, the book was a recent one as well. I have put it on my to-read list.