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Montreal Jazz Festival cancels 2 showings of controversial show after singer breaks ankle

Protesters in front of the Theatre du Nouveau Monde in Montreal. Wednesday June 27, 2018.
Protesters in front of the Theatre du Nouveau Monde in Montreal. Wednesday June 27, 2018. Global News

The Montreal Jazz Festival has cancelled the June 29 and 30 showings of a controversial production that incorporates songs composed by slaves.

Organizers said the two showings of “SLĀV: A theatrical odyssey based on slave songs” were cancelled because Montreal-based singer Betty Bonifassi broke her ankle.

The Jazz Festival is offering exchanges or refunds at the point of purchase for those who want them.

READ MORE: Protesters denounce predominantly white show of songs by black slaves at Montreal Jazz Festival

The show, which is directed by Robert Lepage, has been labeled by critics as cultural appropriation.

It is described as a journey “through traditional Afro-American songs, from cotton fields to construction sites, railroads, from slave songs to prison songs” by Théatre du Nouveau Monde.

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A group of about 75 protesters gathered Tuesday for the opening night of the production and shouted “shame” outside the gates of the theatre. Police formed a cordon to block protesters in order to allow people to enter the show.

Protesters showed up for a second night Wednesday, with some saying Lepage is profiting off the history, culture and pain of black people.

READ MORE: Protesters rally against ‘theatrical odyssey based on slave songs’ at Jazz Festival for second day

“They’re making a profit off it and that’s the definition of cultural appropriation,” said Lucas Charlie Rose, a hip-hop artist.

Bonifassi and Lepage released a joint statement defending the play.

The statement reads in part: “Diversity and its artistic potential are at the heart of SLĀV as much as the legacy of slavery. Do we have the right to tell these stories? Audience members will have the opportunity to decide after having seen the show.”

with files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez and the Canadian Press

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