A new play about WA Ballet founder Kira Bousloff had a performance cancelled this week and sparked anger from dance lovers who said it misrepresented aspects of her life.
The WA Ballet has distanced itself from the play Madame Ballet, written by local playwright John Aitken and being produced at the State Theatre Centre by independent theatre company Janus Entertainment to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the ballet company.
A performance on Thursday night was cancelled after only eight tickets were sold at the 200-seat studio at the STC.
Madame Ballet, about the life and times of Bousloff and her composer husband James Penberthy, was scheduled to run tonight and from Thursday to next Saturday with average bookings of 25 people per night.
Theatregoers who knew Bousloff and Penberthy, who died in 2001 and 1999 respectively, called it a sloppily conceived and executed fantasy. Margaret Mercer, a former WA Ballet dancer and teacher who worked with Bousloff, said the play had played intolerably fast and loose with biographical details and presented other Perth cultural leaders like long-time Festival of Perth director John Birman as gross caricatures.
Bousloff had never danced in WA but the play climaxes with her giving a final performance as Giselle in which she stabs herself instead of dying of a heart attack, Ms Mercer said.
Aitken and the play's director John Senczuk said the play was a dramatic construct, not a slavish documentary.
Aitken, who also knew Bousloff and Penberthy, said he had conducted research at the National Library of Australia but the facts were scanty and needed to be blended with his recollections, imagination and "a swirling serve of fiction".
Senczuk likened it to film accounts of David Helfgott (Shine) and The Queen and Lindy Chamberlain (Evil Angels). "I'd hate to think that we should be discouraged from any attempt to tell our history on stage because of the disparate memories some people have of historic incidents and characters."
He said other people who knew Bousloff had praised the production. "Both Alinta Carroll (who plays Bousloff) and Andrew Southern (Penberthy) were taught by her and so between them and John we've had a direct and personal link in the rehearsal room."