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Billy Elliot forced to scrap dates in Budapest following press hate campaign claiming it will turn kids gay

Lauren Franklin June 21, 2018

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 30: Joshua Denyer plays Billy Elliot during a media call for `Billy Elliot The Musical` at Her Majesty`s Theatre on December 30, 2008 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Luis Enrique Ascui/Getty Images)

The Hungarian National Opera in Budapest has been forced to cancel 15 performances of the musical Billy Elliot, blaming an intense hate campaign from the local media.

Daily newspaper Magyor Idok ran a series of stories claiming that the show could “transform Hungarian boys into homosexuals”, and another article said it promoted a “deviant way of life”.

The Hungarian National Opera in Budapest announced on June 21, 2018 that it had to cancel 15 performances of the musical Billy Elliot following a homophobic press campaign. (Photo by FERENC ISZA / AFP)

Szilveszter Okovacs, director of the Hungary National Opera, told Hungarian site 444.hu: ”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 our management.”

The show will still play 24 other dates in the city, including one that is sold out, with 444.hu saying that political pressure more than ticket sales had driven opera bosses to this.

In another article, the paper who supports right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said: “The propagation of homosexuality cannot be a national goal when the population is getting older and smaller and our country is threatened by invasion”.

Right-wing press feared the show could turn kids gay

Okovacs had replied to the article and highlighted that the only gay character from the original script, Billy’s friend Michael, was not in the production.

Tensions are high in the city, and in recent days the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has been the target of another right-wing paper called Figyelo, which earlier this week published a list of researchers at the academy, accusing them of working on “gay rights and gender science”.

The musical is based on the 2000 film starring Jamie Bell and Julie Walters.

It tells the story of a working-class boy growing up in a mining town who wants to become a ballet dancer.

In March a number of MEPs condemned Hungary’s decision to block a Europe-wide agreement on LGBT rights.

Billy Elliot
The one gay character from the original film about a boy who wants to be a ballet dancer isn’t featured in the stage version (Universal Pictures and Focus Features)

The Dutch government, which currently holds the EU Presidency, had tabled a draft agreement at the Council of the European Union which called on the European Commission to tackle homophobic and transphobic discrimination, promote measures to advance LGBTI equality, and step up efforts to collect data on the treatment of LGBTI citizens.

The agreement has been welcomed by the majority of member countries – with conservative countries including Latvia, Lithuania and Poland dropping their initial reservations.

However, the agreement was vetoed by the representatives for Hungary – the same day it blocked a proposed deal with Turkey on the migration crisis.

A statement from Hungary’s right-wing government said: “Hungary is not in the position to agree with the list of actions to advance LGBTI equality.”

More: Billy Elliot, Europe, gay rights in hungary, Hungary, Hungary

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