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France: Controversial theatre play about Indigenous Canadians cancelled

10 August 2018
Kanata, a play portraying Canadian Indigenous history, was cancelled after some co-producers withdrew funding following “aggressive controversy”.
Photo: Kanata rehearsals / Le Théâtre du Soleil website

 

Kanata, an upcoming play exploring Canadian Indigenous history, was cancelled on 26 July after some of the show’s producers pulled out of the project following “aggressive controversy”.

There were no Indigenous actors cast in the Robert Lepage-directed production about fictional relationships between Indigenous Canadians and Europeans spanning 200 years. It was set to debut at the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris this December.

Before announcing the cancellation, Lepage and the theatre’s director Ariane Mnouchkine met with signatories of an open letter opposing the play.

“The participants of the meeting were very open and we felt that many of our exchanges were productive. Nevertheless, the infinitely complex and often aggressive controversy surrounding the show has in the meantime reached the North American co-producers that were interested in it, and certain ones have now announced their withdrawal,” Lepage’s production company Ex Machina said in a statement.

“Without their financial support, we are unable to finish creating Kanata with Théâtre du Soleil. Therefore, we are putting an end to the project.”

Théâtre du Soleil described the “attempted intimidation of theatre artists” in its accompanying statement.

“An intimidation unimaginable in a democratic country, that is carried out largely on social media networks in the name of an ideology that the Théâtre du Soleil does not wish to qualify here but to which it will respond with its own tools,” the statement said.

It’s the second time in a month the Canadian director, of Cirque du Soleil fame, has had a show cancelled following accusations of cultural appropriation. On 4 July 2018 Montreal International Jazz Festival cancelled performances of SLĀV— a show directed by Lepage that featured a majority white cast singing African-American slave songs.

Read more about the controversy behind SLĀV here.

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