#MeToo comes for French theatre

#MeToo comes for French theatre

It has taken a while for the MeToo movement to reach the world of French theatre
It has taken a while for the MeToo movement to reach the world of French theatre

PARIS - For four years, the alleged rape had been wiped from Alice's mind -- "post-traumatic amnesia," she says.

When the memory started to emerge, it took another four years for her to find the courage to file a complaint against renowned actor and theatre director Michel Didym.

"Filing a complaint, having to recount everything, it increases the trauma," Alice (not her real name) told AFP at a protest in Paris on Saturday organised by a new group, #MeTooTheatre.

Alice accuses Didym, more than 30 years her senior, of raping her when she was a 20-year-old acting student at the National Drama Centre in Nancy.

"As an actress, I depend on people who have far too much power," she said, her hands trembling as she spoke, and her face entirely masked to maintain anonymity.

"The directors know perfectly well what's going on -- that there are many predators."

She is not alone in accusing Didym, who has had an illustrious career in the theatre dating back to the early 1980s.

Several women accused the 63-year-old of sexual assault or harassment in newspaper Liberation earlier this month.

He denies the charges but has cancelled his upcoming shows and is under investigation by the police.

- Convicted murderer -

It has taken a while for the MeToo movement to reach the world of French theatre.

Protests, however, have been building against two controversial figures featuring in the current season of the Colline Theatre, one of France's six national theatres.

Activists are angry over the hiring of director Jean-Pierre Baro, who was accused of rape in a complaint that was later dismissed for lack of evidence, and rock star Bertrand Cantat, who beat his girlfriend to death in 2003.

Cantat, former singer with Noir Desir ("Black Desire"), repeatedly punched the actress Marie Trintignant (daughter of famed actor Jean-Louis Trintignant), in the head in a Vilnius hotel room.

She died from her injuries a few days later.

The singer was sentenced to eight years in prison but was released on parole after four.

The head of the Colline, Wajdi Mouawad, chose Cantat to compose the music for "Mere" which opens next month.

In a statement, Mouawad said he supported "unreservedly" the fight against violence and sexual harassment, but that he would not act as "a substitute for the judicial system".

Although Mouawad was appointed directly by the government, Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot told France Inter radio on Monday that it was not her job to intervene in the theatre's day-to-day affairs, though she "regretted" the decision to hire Cantat.

Mouawad has worked with Cantat before, casting him in "Des Femmes" (Some Women), in 2011, the same year the singer's parole ended.

An outcry at the time meant Cantat never appeared on stage, though Mouawad still used a recording of his voice.

- 'Enough' -

Such decisions are now attracting greater resistance.

The #MeTooTheatre group was formed after a blogger, Marie Coquille-Chambel, published her account of being raped by a 45-year-old actor when she was 16.

It triggered an avalanche of similar stories.

"I was 23 and had a professional meeting with a 60-year-old director. He was naked in his bath when I arrived and asked me to join him," wrote actress Celine Langlois on Twitter.

She was among the 300 or so that gathered for the protest on Saturday.

"We were scared to talk for a long time. But now we've had enough," she told AFP.

"Had enough of the myth of actresses being loose women, of the demand that they stay young and beautiful until death, of their under-representation in management posts."

It is the precarious nature of the job -- "the fear of missing out on roles" -- that has allowed the problems to go unaddressed, said Laetitia Cesar-Franquet, a researcher with the Emile Durkheim Centre.

There is also an attitude in the theatre "that the body is something that can be treated any way they want", she added.

"If we witness violence and the majority don't intervene, people will go with the crowd," she said.

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