Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easy scapegoat for actor's cancellation

It seems playwright Wajdi Mouawad (left) is a little miffed, to say the least, by the storm of opposition that greeted his decision to cast a convicted murderer from starring in his upcoming musical Des Femmes - based on three Sophocles tragedies - to be staged in Quebec and at the National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa.....Mouawad is the author of the play Incendies (Scorched), made into a successful film by Denis Villeneuve, and which was up for a foreign-language Oscar in February.....When opposition by women’s groups and others arose after Montreal’s Théâtre du Nouveau Monde announced the appearance of French rock musician Bertrand Cantat in the production, Mouawad didn’t have anything to say. I thought that was a little strange - cat caught his tongue, was he seething?..... Cantat, you see, had murdered his girlfriend, rising French actress Marie Trintignant (daughter of legendary star Jean-Louis Trintignant) in 2003. He got out of a European jail early for good behaviour and Mouawad, a friend, hired him in part as a rehabilitation project. The play, Des Femmes, itself is described as challenging "our notions of justice, democracy, law and crime".....But the uproar, which caught theatre producers off guard (see post below), forced Cantat’s cancellation.....This week Mouawad finally broke his silence and, yes, he seems rather sulky.  Mouawad, who is also the NAC’s French theatre artistic director, said that despite the fact Cantat would not appear the play indeed will feature his music. In fact, he said, the production will “radically draw attention to the absence” of Cantat......Mouawad went on to say he was prepared to debate the morality of hiring Cantat. But, strangely, he said that any debate had been shut down by Canadian politicians. That’s a reference to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Josée Verner, who said her government would make sure immigration laws would be fully applied to keep Cantat out of the country. Said a NAC news release: the production “cannot happen without taking into account recent events as well as declarations by certain political figures who are currently engaged in the national election, regarding the strict application, and as imposed on one of the artists featured in the production of the rules governing entry at the Canadian border. As such, the absence of this artist will be made felt throughout the production that will be unveiled on Canadian stages ? (sic) something that will attest to a unified show of support by the actors, creators and technicians involved in this artistic adventure towards one of their own.”.....In other words, take that opponents! Protesters, after all, had been enraged that Cantat's hiring trivialized violence against women......But what's really interesting is that Mouawad and the NAC (one and the same?) are singling out a federal politician. Mouawad called Verner's stance "political opportunism." But he makes no direct criticism of the grassroots' opposition. (Cantat will continue to star in productions outside Canada).....This seems rather convenient for Mouawad.  To blame anyone else – I.e., women’s groups, members of which probably make up a good portion of the theatrical audience - would be politically incorrect. But it’s  fair game to blame a Conservative government minister.....Mouawad, despite the praise garnered for his challenging play Incendies, has shown us what he is personally made of, and it's cowardice.

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