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Canadian wildfires: Actress Jodie Comer halts New York Broadway show after breathing difficulties

Jodie Comer on stage in her acclaimed role in 'Prima Facie'
Jodie Comer on stage in her acclaimed role in 'Prima Facie' Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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The 'Killing Eve' actress was forced to stop her performance in New York after suffering breathing difficulties amidst unhealthy air quality in the city.

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Celebrated actress Jodie Comer was forced to quit a theatre performance on Broadway in New York yesterday (Wednesday 7 June), after experiencing breathing difficulties due to polluted air affecting much of the city and the tri-state area.

Comer halted her acclaimed one-woman play ‘Prima Facie’ around 10 minutes in, after she started to cough and told a stage manager she couldn’t breathe.

Following the incident, understudy Dani Arlington stepped into the role of Tessa, a British defence lawyer. 

British actress Comer debuted the show on Broadway in April, after a hugely successful run in London’s West End; she was recently nominated for a Tony Award for ‘Prima Facie’ despite the show being her first time performing in New York City’s iconic theatre district.

2023 Invision
Comer at the 76th annual Tony Awards Meet the Nominees event in May2023 Invision

A spokesperson for the show explained: "Today's matinee of Prima Facie was halted approximately 10 minutes into the performance after Jodie Comer had difficulty breathing due to the poor air quality in New York City because of smoke from the Canadian wildfires”.

Images of the orange glow in New York’s skies have gone viral on social media, coming after thick smoke poured into the United States’ East Coast and Midwest from Canada, causing hazardous levels of pollution.

The city and surrounding areas have seen the worst air quality on record since the 1960s due to the enormous amounts of wildfires that have been ravaging Canada in the most destructive wildfires in the country’s history.

To date, some 3.3 million hectares of land in Canada have been destroyed, while the United States’ Environment Protection Agency warned citizens that the air quality in a number of states was "unhealthy" and cautioned people to limit all outdoor activity.

Yuki Iwamura/AP
Clouded in smoke - New York from aboveYuki Iwamura/AP

In New York City alone, the air quality crisis is casting a shadow over more of the entertainment world, too.

Broadway shows ‘Camelot’ and ‘Hamilton’ were cancelled on yesterday and outdoor performances of ‘Hamlet’ were nixed until at least Saturday.

Sports have been affected too, with the White Sox-Yankees Major League Baseball game cancelled on Wednesday, as well as a Phillies-Tigers MLB match. A National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup match between the Gotham FC and Orlando Pride, which was set to take place in New Jersey, has been postponed until August.

The ongoing writers’ strikes were affected too, with the Writers Guild of America taking to Twitter to cancel all pickets for members of WGA East in the Big Apple on Thursday and Friday.

Taxi drivers protesting a controversial tax were also forced to cancel their rally outside New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s office, while the opening night of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, scheduled to feature performances by Taj Mahal, Corinne Bailey Rae and The Harlem Gospel Travelers, was also called off.

Four zoos across New York, including Central Park Zoo, were all forced to close early on Wednesday, as were all of the city’s beaches, with lifeguards pulled from duty at 3PM Eastern Time.

All outdoor events hosted by the NYC Parks Department were cancelled, too, including Movie Under the Stars’ typically held throughout the five boroughs and Hudson River Park's Jazz at Pier 84.

Getty Images
Lady Liberty bathing in orange smokeGetty Images

The unhealthy air conditions have extended as far as North Carolina and Indiana with millions affected. Some have chosen to put their pandemic-era face masks back on, in a desperate attempt to protect their health.

Meteorologists say forecasted rain coming at the end of the week should help clear the air in the affected states and more relief will come as Canada continues to contain or extinguish the fires.

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