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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.

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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