Jodie Comer: Prima Facie star halts Broadway show due to wildfire smoke

Actress Jodie Comer abruptly walked off stage during a Broadway performance on Wednesday after saying she had trouble breathing due to wildfire smoke.

Comer’s one-woman show, Prima Facie, continued after her understudy stepped in to complete the matinee performance.

Canada wildfire smoke has blanketed New York City in recent days.

A performance of Hamilton and several sports matches were postponed on Wednesday as residents were advised to stay indoors or wear N95 masks outside.

“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,” a spokesperson for the production told The Hollywood Reporter.

Understudy Dani Arlington replaced the Killing Eve star in the role of Tessa, completing the roughly 100-minute performance and earning an enthusiastic applause, a witness told Deadline.

The audience member told Deadline that after about three minutes into her performance, Comer coughed and called out to a stage manager: “I can’t breathe this air”.

Reports on social media and in Variety indicated Comer was helped off the stage by a member of the production team.

By the time the announcement was made that the actress would not return to the stage that afternoon, some members of the audience had reportedly left their seats, with many requesting new tickets for a future performance or for refunds.

On Twitter, one audience member wrote: “We came to see Jodie Comer. She started [the] show. Had to stop for air quality. Now want us to see understudy. What is refund policy? Exchange? We came and paid high price to see Jodie.”

Comer, who hails from Liverpool in the UK, has received rave reviews for the show since its debut in April.

In Prima Facie she plays a barrister who defends people who have been accused of sexual assault, but is then herself attacked by a colleague.

Comer has been widely acclaimed for her performance in the play – she is nominated for best actress at this Sunday’s Tony Awards and has already won an Olivier.

The British star, who has also appeared in The Last Duel and Free Guy, is due to continue playing the role on Broadway until 2 July.

Smoke from Canada has tinged the sky orange in New York and led to health warnings in parts of Canada and the US northeast.

The Environment Protection Agency has said the air quality in New York was “unhealthy”, and citizens were warned to limit outdoor activity.

Other venues to be affected include the Vineyard Theatre cancelled Wednesday night’s performance of This Land Was Made.

The off-Broadway theatre said the cancellation was “in the interest of prioritising the health and safety of our audience members, performers, and staff”.

Some parts of Canada have been evacuated. About 7,500 people have left Chibougamau, the largest town in northern Quebec and roughly 4,000 residents have fled the Cree town, Mistissini.

Zach Taylor, a US National Weather Service meteorologist, said the weather pattern meant smoke was being funnelled into the US.

He said the air should begin to clear after rain this weekend and early next week, adding further relief would come from containing or extinguishing the fires.

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