(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/7; via Pam Green.)
PARIS — Have the times finally caught up with Virginie Despentes? A quarter-century after the release of her novel “Baise-moi,” a savage tale of rape, revenge and murder that propelled her to fame, the French author reads like a prescient feminist voice in the #MeToo era.
“Vernon Subutex 1,” her latest book to be translated into English, was shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize; a big-budget TV adaptation, headlined by the French movie star Romain Duris, is scheduled to start filming this year. And in Paris, a staging of Ms. Despentes’s 2006 memoir, “King Kong Theory,” is a timely reminder that she has long been a vital thinker, who deserves better than the aura of scandal that has defined much of her career.
“King Kong Theory” doesn’t attempt to appeal to fair-weather feminists. Ms. Despentes pulls no punches in this manifesto against the patriarchy, in which she recounts how she was raped at age 17 and subsequently worked as a prostitute. At no point does she court pity. Instead, as in most of her works, her writing is alive with no-holds-barred anger.
Vanessa Larré wasn’t the first director to see potential for a stage version, but she shrewdly opted to turn Ms. Despentes’s monologue into something more polyphonic. First performed in 2015, her “King Kong Theory” reopened at the Théâtre de l’Atelier in late May with a new cast and runs through July 7. Three women (Anne Azoulay, Marie Denarnaud and Valérie de Dietrich) take turns center stage: They all highlight individual aspects of the text, yet together they project the strength of a small army.
And they deliver Ms. Despentes’s blows without a hint of sensationalism. Ms. de Dietrich, who adapted the book along with Ms. Larré and who opens the performance, sets a no-nonsense tone from the first scene. She describes herself wryly as “more King Kong than Kate Moss,” “too noisy, too fat” and “too masculine,” and excoriates the male gaze and its influence on women’s lives — later calling on men to free themselves from it, too.