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PRINT February 2020

performance

TRUE CRIME

Thomas Ostermeier, History of Violence, 2019. Rehearsal view, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn, NY, November 12, 2019. Édouard (Laurenz Laufenberg). Photo: Teddy Wolff.

AT THE TOP of Thomas Ostermeier’s History of Violence, the German theater director’s adaptation of Édouard Louis’s 2016 autobiographical novel, three performers clad head to toe in protective hoods and coveralls mark the stage as a crime scene, placing numbered placards at points across the floor. As one begins to dust for fingerprints, another records the procedure on video, live-streaming it in close-up onto a stark white wall looming behind them. Soon, an ominous image of a brush stirring up a cloud of fine powder dissolves into one of falling snow. It is Christmas in Paris and Édouard is alive, still, having been held at gunpoint, strangled nearly to death, and raped early that morning.

In Louis’s book, there is no such scene, no formal search for evidence. Rather, his story is his proof. In the hours following his attack, he furiously scrubbed away all physical traces thereof:

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