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The Canadian Theatre Critics Association has chosen Globe and Mail drama writer J. Kelly Nestruck as this year’s winner of the Nathan Cohen Award for Outstanding Critical Essay.

Celebrating a critical piece by a Canada-based journalist outside of the traditional review format, the group honoured Nestruck’s coverage of the Robert Lepage production, Kanata, Épisode 1, which was staged in Paris a year ago.

Billed as “the story of Canada through the prism of relations between whites and Indigenous people,” Lepage’s polarizing play depicted a serial killer terrorizing residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, many of whom are Indigenous. Controversially, the performance had no participation from First Nations groups.

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While Le Figaro’s theatre critic called the play “magistral and sombre,” Nestruck saw it differently. “To a French audience who may have never heard of [serial killer Robert] Pickton, perhaps this might not perturb. But to a Canadian in Paris, it feels as if a national tragedy has been turned into televisual cliché,” Nestruck wrote.

This is Nestruck’s third award named after the noted Canadian theatre critic. He last won in 2016 for a piece on three Arthur Miller productions, and in 2012 for an essay on Bernard Shaw.

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