Hungary’s National Opera has canceled almost half its run of the musical Billy Elliot, blaming a homophobic campaign in a national newspaper.
The hit musical was due to open in Budapest tonight and run for 29 performances, but 15 shows have now been axed according to local media reports. Ticket sales were apparently doing well until a series of negative press articles started appearing in national newspapers.
‘The negative campaign of the last few weeks with regard to the production Billy Elliot has brought down the sale of tickets significantly,” Szilveszter Okovacs the director of the institution is quoted as saying in Hungarian online newspaper 444.hu.
Daily newspaper, Magyor Idok, reportedly ran a series of stories telling readers that the production risked ‘transforming Hungarian boys into homosexuals’. The journal is a daily believed to be closely aligned with the ultraconservative prime minister Viktor Orban.
Real life imitating art in eastern Europe
Ironically, the story of Billy Elliot deals with exactly the same kinds of fears and misconceptions around ballet and LGBT themes in 1980’s northern Britain.
The musical is based on the hit film of the same name. It tells the moving story of a teenager from a working class northern England town during the 1980s miner’s strike. The young boy chooses to devote himself to ballet rather than boxing, despite his father’s concerns.
In one Magya Idok article, reporter Zsolt Jeszenszky argues that while the state tries to promote the traditional family model, shows like Billy Elliot promote ‘a deviant way of life’.
In another Ibok article on the same show, reporter N. Horváth Zsófia headlines with ‘Scandalous performance at the theatre’.
Gay Star News has contacted the Hungary National Opera for further comment.