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P.K. Subban blackface in Théâtre du Rideau Vert play deemed offensive by some

12/21/2014 01:14 EST | Updated 02/20/2015 05:59 EST
The use of blackface to portray P.K. Subban in a satirical play has left a bad taste in the mouths of members of Montreal's black artistic community and a longtime theatre reviewer.

A white actor in the Théâtre du Rideau Vert’s annual year-end production, Revue et Corrigée, painted his face black to portray the famous Habs defenceman.

Pat Donnelly of the Montreal Gazette slammed the theatre for allowing the blackface portrayal of Subban in a review of the play earlier this month.

"I’ve gone for many years and I must say this year I almost didn’t go because I had some concerns that I would once again see a white performer in blackface with a bad Afro wig trying to pretend they’re a black person, because it’s been frequently done with this show in the past," Donnelly said.

"But I thought surely not this year, given all the unrest south of the border."

Still, nothing was changed in the production.

Quebec theatre has history of blackface

It’s just one segment in a long show meant to be a comedic year-end wrap of Quebec’s news stories of 2014.

The cast members assume the identities of several notable Quebec figures, including Subban.

Donnelly said she enjoyed the play until the intermission, but was immediately turned off once the actor in blackface took the stage.

She said that Quebec theatre is notorious for casting white people in non-white roles.

Although she believes it’s usually a case of having the heart in the right place but the mind not quite getting it, she said it’s simply just gone on too long.

"This is nothing new in Quebec theatre. It’s been going on as long as I’ve been a theatre critic, which is 30 years," Donnelly said.

Quincy Armorer, the artistic director for the Black Theatre Workshop, said the decision to cast a white actor to play the hockey player was not a good decision.

"I was offended, as I expected to be. Just the image of blackface turns my stomach," Armorer said.

He said he chose to go to the show after much internal debate, so that he could form a first-hand opinion of it.

"It's offensive. It's not so much offensive what they did with it, [but] the act itself just is. It comes with a whole history that has racist connotations to it and you can't get away from that no matter what you do," Armorer continued.

The Théâtre du Rideau Vert has not yet answered CBC News' requests for comment.

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