A production of the hit musical Billy Elliot in Budapest has cancelled dates after a Hungarian newspaper ran a homophobic campaign against it.
The show, based on the 2000 film of the same name about a working-class boy who learns ballet, was set to have a 44-show run at the Hungary National Opera.
Yet the right-wing Hungarian newspaper Magyor Idok reportedly ran a series of articles in their publication warning parents that the show could be "transforming Hungarian boys into homosexuals".
Other reports state that another article claimed that it promoted a "deviant way of life" which contrasted with the family values of the country.
Pink News quotes them as writing:
The propagation of homosexuality cannot be a national goal when the population is getting older and smaller and our country is threatened by invasion.
Another article ran with the headline: "Scandalous performance at the theatre." Reports have suggested that Magyor Idok is closely aligned with Hungary's conservative populist prime minister Viktor Orban.
The negative impact of these stories has been so severe that 15 of the scheduled shows have now been axed.
Speaking to the Hungarian website 444.hu the opera house director Szilveszter Okovacs said:
As you know, the negative campaign in recent weeks against the Billy Elliot production led to a big drop in ticket sales and for this reason we are cancelling 15 performances in line with the decision of out management.
Okovacs is also reported to have said that the only gay character in the story, Billy's friend Michael, was not a part of this production.
A statement from the National Opera House to indy100 also clarified that the cancellations were not due to the press controversy itself, but due to the "decreasing interest generated by it".
The statement said:
The Hungarian State Opera would hereby like to reassure the audience that 29 performances of the production Billy Elliot will take place whereas 15 of the 44 performances planned for June and July had to be cancelled following the press controversy of the past weeks.
The Opera wishes to emphasise: the performances have not been cancelled due to the press controversy but by the decreasing interest generated by it.
Those who trust the reasons of the Opera can still purchase tickets for more than 20 performances which have been running twice daily since Tuesday.
As a refutation of certain uninformed media platforms accusing us, misguiding readers deliberately with false information, we can recommend our official website www.opera.hu.
Audiences can see the availability of tickets for every single performance.
The Billy Elliot production has been running for two years now. Its 90 performances have been seen by over 100 thousand people. The Hungarian State Opera wishes to express its gratitude toward it [sic] audiences.
Reaction to this unfortunate news has been widely condemned on social media: