Canadian stage production cancelled in Fernwood after online backlash


A popular, long-standing Victoria alternative theatre company has had a stage production cancelled after receiving online backlash.

Theatre Inconnu’s production of Sisters, written by acclaimed Canadian playwright, screenwriter and former NDP MP Wendy Lill centres around the experiences of a nun in the residential school system. Wendy Merk is a Victoria theatre director who has worked with Theatre Inconnu in the past, and she saw a production of Sisters last week.

“It detailed to some degree some of the cruelties that were forced upon the children,” says Merk.

Theatre Inconnu is housed in the Fernwood Community Association building and has been in operation since 1987.

Wednesday, after Sisters had completed 11 shows of a 15-show run, posts on the company’s Instagram page became inundated with calls to cancel the remaining nights.

The vast majority of posts on Facebook and Reddit were in support of staging the production, but Tuesday, the Fernwood Community Association announced it would be cancelling the remaining four shows.

The association acts as a landlord to Theatre Inconnu and issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying, “This decision was made to make space for listening and ensure the safety of everyone in our building and community.”

The company adds that it has invited its staff and performers to a discussion with an Indigenous facilitator.

It’s the second time in three months that a play has been cancelled in Fernwood.

In January the Belfry Theatre cancelled its upcoming staging of The Runner, a play centred in Israel that deals with violence in the Middle East. Vocal crowds of pro-Palestine supporters protested outside the Belfry, and the building was vandalized with the words “Free Palestine” spray painted in red on the building’s front steps.

Much of the criticism online centred on the idea of Sisters being told through the experiences of a white character as opposed to an Indigenous perspective.

Merk says she appreciates those view points, but disagrees with the idea of cancelling the production.

“Rather than cancelling this play that is attempting to tell a part of that story, write your own play,” Merk said. “I’m sure the Fernwood Community Association would be only too happy to produce it. Let’s hear those voices. ”

In the meantime, she hopes no future productions will be cancelled without broader public input.

“What kind of a world are we in where people are afraid to do a play?” Merk asks.

Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!