Controversy around “SLĀV”: Robert Lepage made his mea culpa

Polémique autour de «SLĀV»: Robert Lepage fait son mea culpa

Photo: Renaud Philippe Archives The Duty
The stage director Robert Lepage estimated by the evidence of the “clumsiness and lack of judgment” in the controversy that has surrounded the creation of the show “SLAV”.

Mea culpa, says Robert Lepage. The director believed to have made evidence of the “clumsiness and lack of judgment” in the controversy that has surrounded the creation of the show SLĀV last summer. He promises to “do better” for the rest of the things.

In an open letter published Friday morning, Mr. Lepage said that he had this fall a meeting with the members of the collective SLĀV Resistance — who had led the charge of criticism against this ” odyssey theatre through the songs of slaves.” And he was pleasantly surprised.

See the full open letter of Robert Lepage

“During the meeting, our first finding was also striking that disarming ; we do not like, neither to one side nor the other, and the portraits in the opinion of the general public and the media had made of us, written by Mr. Lepage. Despite our differences of opinion, we meet earlier would have been better we understand, while avoiding many of the scratches. “

“In this climate of openness and transparency,” adds the man of the theatre, it was easier for me to admit my clumsiness and my lack of judgment and try to explain the merits of our approach. For me it was also important to recognise that the version of SLĀV that we had presented last June was far from complete. “

And he believes that ” this was perhaps not by chance that the problems playwriting that had plagued the show corresponded exactly to the ethical problems that he was accused “.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Lepage said to have felt ” the importance to [be] committing on certain commitments in order to continue to evolve our thinking “.

He thus announces :

  • as representatives of SLĀV Resistance will attend the rehearsals of the show before its anticipated recovery in 2019. Performances will be held, including Saint-Jérôme, on 22 and 23 January ;
  • that many changes will be made to the show ;
  • that the representatives of SLĀV Resistance will be a forum for exchange with the public and the artists following some performances in the future.

Robert Lepage also promised “structural changes within the organization of Ex Machina (his production company) to” ensure a significant representation of the community afrodescendante of Quebec within the programming of the future “Diamond”.


In his letter, Lepage wrote that ” this debate raised in [him] a lot more questions than he does [it] has provided answers “. He says he stayed up here silent to avoid “the adjudication of the electronic media and editorial lines of the press” around a sensitive issue.

“But I knew that by choosing me to be quiet, I took the risk that others speak in my place, and that the arguments of my defenders are not always in line with my opinions,” says Mr. Lepage.

If he was surprised of the attitude of members of SLĀV Resistance during its meeting, it was because he was expecting to find the ” irascible far-left militants portrayed by some media “, people who are ready to” spit and roast at high heat “.

On the contrary, he was ” greeted by people who were very open and that have proven to be very sensitive, intelligent, cultured, articulate and peaceful “, he notes.

Mr. Lepage reported another distortion between the public debate and the reality.

“Accused wrongly by a few people that I was probably going to have to deal with a band of”Anglo-radicalized Concordia University”, all my arguments had been prepared in English. But when I understood that the vast majority of them were francophones, and that the discussion would unfold primarily in the language of Molière, I have to admit that I found myself helpless and stuttering. “

Robert Lepage also wrote that, ” during the four hours of our discussion, with moving testimonies and many laughs, we listened to carefully, in a mutual respect.” “We came to the conclusion that, although we were not going to solve all of the ins and outs of the issues related to the question of cultural appropriation, an openness to dialogue had to take place. “

Created by Robert Lepage and Betty Bonifassi, SLĀV was first presented at the last Festival international de jazz de Montréal (FIJM). The first of the show was marked by some manifestation of rough, the premise of a lively debate about cultural appropriation and the representation of artists of color on the stages of quebec (SLĀV were only two singers black on six performers).

Both for security reasons and because Betty Bonifassi was seriously injured and unable to play, the direction of the FIJM had decided to cancel a number of performances. Many of them had screamed for censorship, and Robert Lepage had written that the production was ” muzzled “.

The letter of Robert Lepage does that SLĀV and is not a state of another controversy involving the same issues — Kanata, which is currently being presented in Paris.

Other details will follow.

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