Kanata, an upcoming French 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.
The production created in a little controversy in France due to politically correct concerns about the depiction of Indigenous peoples. The controversy led to North American co-producers pulling out.
Lepage's production company Ex Machina then 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 King and I is back in the West End, 67 years on from its Broadway debut.
But its portrait of a white woman being both fascinated and repelled by a society depicted as both backward and barbarous is winding up a few PC critics.
The Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish whinges The King and I one of the most problematic musicals of the 20th Century American canon. Michael Billington expresses similar sentiments in The Guardian , saying it seems to endorse the idea of the
civilising influence of the west on the barbaric east.
The Independent's Paul Taylor detects a smack of imperial condescension to this story of a widowed, well-bred Victorian governess who... gives a funny foreign despot... a stiff dose of Western values.
Time Out's Andrzej Lukowski, meanwhile, calls the musical kind of racist ... like an elderly relative who you make allowances for on grounds of age.
Director Bartlet Sher responds that the show remains resonant, powerful and extremely well-conceived. He also dismisses suggestions the piece has dated, saying its views on colonialism, gender equality and the conflict between modernity and
tradition make it as timely and powerful as ever.
I wonder if these PC critics would have banned British cave rescuers from helping out in Thailand lest heroically saving children's lives affirms 'white saviour' stereotypes.
Offsite Comment: The King and I : a West End treat
New theatre audience advisories in Canada are warning about specific plot points that could trigger
emotional trauma for those of a snowflake disposition.
This spring, Western Canada Theatre attached a warning to Children of God, a musical about residential schools, that indicates the production's mature and potentially triggering scenes involving residential schools and sexual abuse.
A subsequent production, Armstrong's War , a play about an Afghan War vet, came with the following advisory:
This hard-hitting yet inspiring drama about bravery and survival contains some potentially triggering content about the horrors of war and mental illness.
And unsurprisingly the trigger warnings have sparked a bit of a debate.
James MacDonald, artistic director of Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops, B.C., is in favour of using trigger warnings where the material justifies it.
I think if we inform the audience beforehand, and they're not blindsided by it, then they don't have a negative reaction to it.
MacDonald said he saw a need for trigger warnings after his company staged a play that featured a scene of a daughter being sexually abused by her father. He said:
Even though we had put a content warning on the play to say that there was adult content and scenes which may disturb people, that particular scene evoked many reactions and responses from the audience, and they felt like they were blindsided by
For other theatre professionals, trigger warnings are the very antithesis of what theatre is designed to do: provoke reactions.
Montreal's Imago Theatre specializes in English-language plays written from women's perspectives and often features plays about challenging subject matter, like rape and violence against women. But there isn't a trigger warning anywhere in sight.
Imago's artistic director Micheline Chevrier explains:
I think we have to be careful with trigger warnings. I'm not a fan of wanting to tell somebody exactly everything they're about to experience.
She worries trigger warnings are the first step toward avoidance of difficult material altogether, a slide into self-censorship by playwrights and directors afraid of offending patrons.