Édouard Louis’ coming of age story shares his experiences living with a turbulent family while facing bullying, homophobia, and misogyny at school. His only option? To get out.
Since its release in 2014, the memoir has reached close to half a million readers. Now, Édouard’s story is coming to life on stage, as a co-production between Scotland’s Untitled Projects’ team – director Stewart Laing and writer Pamela Carter – and London’s Unicorn Theatre, the UK’s leading theatre for young audiences. Premiering at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2018, The End of Eddy recounts Édouard’s life with only two performers and a quartet of TV screens, truly bringing his story to the next generation. Despite its heavy themes, The End of Eddy has been created specifically with young audiences in mind, and will be performed as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival next month.
A graduate of The Central School of Art and Design, Director Stewart Laing is the current Associate Director of the National Theatre of Scotland, and is Artistic Director for Untitled Projects, a company he formed in 1998. Some past directing credits include An Argument About Sex (Untitled Projects), The Maids (Citizens Theatre), Creditors (Lyceum), Faust (Malmö Opera) and Così fan Tutte (Scottish Opera). He has designed both throughout the UK and internationally, including his Tony Award winning design for Titanic The Musical.
I spoke to Stewart about his work on the production, and what audiences can expect from the stage adaptation of Édouard’s life.
Can you tell me a bit about your theatrical history? Where did your interest in directing stem from?
I originally trained as a theatre designer at art school. During the years I worked as a designer I realised that what I was really interested in was telling stories visually and that being a director would give me the freedom to focus on this. I think of directing theatre as a visual art form. I think this is more obvious with film directors, but my approach to theatre is based on communicating with images.
Why do you think Edouard’s story still rings true?
The book was published in 2014 when Édouard was 21 years old. One of the surprising things about the book is that people in western Europe still live in the extreme poverty that Édouard writes about, and it is poverty he lived through growing up in northern France. His story is of his struggles realising he is gay in an environment where his family and friends all value ultra-masculinity and violence as a way of life. There is a wave of political populism in Europe that upholds these right-wing values and Édouard’s story feels very pertinent in this context.
Are you excited about bringing this production to Australia?
Very excited. I’m a big fan of Australian culture, especially the movies. And the theatre being made by Australian directors at the moment is really taking Europe by storm. So I’m thrilled to be part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. And on a personal level, I’ve never been to Australia before, so very much looking forward to seeing it for the first time.
What can audiences expect from The End of Eddy?
On one level it is a tender and moving coming of age story, on another it is an angry and passionate call for change to a political system that punishes people for being for being poor. We made the show specifically with a young audience in mind (14+) so it is accessible and funny. Édouard has a great sense of humour, even when the events he narrates are dark and challenging.
Unicorn Theatre & Untitled Projects presents The End Of Eddy | 16-20 October