Far from any Marivaux-like literary flourishes, this production brings us words spoken in a direct, unflinching way on the subject of marital dispute and the premonition of the break-up. Given that they are the ones best placed to talk about it – though rarely listened to – writer and director Mohamed El Khatib invited children of parents who have split up to take to the stage and share their points of view, based on interviews conducted over several months with around 100 8-year-olds from different backgrounds.

The real has always played the leading role in the works of Mohamed El Khatib. Considering no area of investigation out of bounds, he prefers lived experience to expertise, source to digression, and personal account to professional analysis. El Khatib presents a far cry from the alarming pictures painted by psychologists, jurists, and sociologists in relation to the effects of divorce on the lives of children. Through his interviews with these children, El Khatib explores, in the heart of the process of parental separations, how the children are affected by the decision of their parents. What words do they put to this crucial event occurring in the early stages of their lives? How do they view this breaking of a sentimental engagement that they always thought was unconditional? Did they guess it was going to happen? Had they taken sides? Caught up in the ruins of this dissolution of the family unit, how do they, themselves, rebuild their lives? What questions had they always dreamt of asking their parents? This latest work by Mohamed El Khatib, written through the prism of childhood, treads a delicate path between audacity and discretion, emotion and mischievousness, and offers us a unique insight into a universal subject in society.

The recording of this live production is presented in French. The virtual event is free and open to the public.


The video recording was posted on this page from September 13-16, 2020.


On September 16 at 4:45 p.m. (EDT), join us for a live Zoom conversation with writer/director Mohamed El Khatib following the online presentation of La dispute. Advance registration required; Register for the Conversation


If you are in need of access accommodations in order to participate in this event, please contact the Lewis Center at 609-258-5262 or email at least 2 weeks in advance of the event date.




Conceived and directed by: Mohamed El Khatib
With Aaron, Amélie, Camille, Éloria, Ihsen, Imran, Jeanette, Maëlla, Malick, Ninon, Solal, Swann (alternatively)
Artistic collaboration: Vassia Chavaroche, and Marie Desgranges
Stage design: Frédéric Hocké
Sound: Arnaud Léger
Video and editing: Emmanuel Manzano
Production: Collectif Zirlib
Coproduced by: Tandem scène nationale (Arras-Douai); Théâtre National de Bretagne (Rennes); Malraux scène nationale Chambéry Savoie; Théâtre Garonne – scène européenne (Toulouse); Bois de l’Aune (Aix-en-Provence); La Coursive – Scène nationale de la Rochelle; Théâtre Cinéma Paul Eluard de Choisy-le-Roi; Théâtre du Beauvaisis – Scène Nationale (Beauvais); Théâtre de la Ville-Paris; and Festival d’Automne à Paris
In association with Théâtre de la Ville-Paris ; and Festival d’Automne à Paris for performances at Théâtre de la Ville-Paris
With support from Liberté, scène nationale de Toulon and Scène Nationale d’Aubusson
First performed on November 8th, 2019 at Théâtre de la Ville-Paris, with Festival d’Automne à Paris.

Presented By

  • Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Department of Comparative Literature
  • Cultural Services of the French Embassy
  • Institut Français
  • Department of Art and Archaeology
  • Humanities Council
  • Center for French Studies
  • Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society
  • French American Cultural Exchange Foundation
  • Department of French and Italian
  • L’Avant-Scène
  • Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies