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Dame Judy: If you need a trigger warning to watch the theatre, then don’t

Dame Judi Dench insists people who need trigger warnings should stay away from the theatre.

May 15, 2024, updated May 15, 2024
epa07067390 British actress Judi Dench poses on the Green Carpet before the screening of the movie "Red Joan" at the 14th Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) in Zurich, Switzerland, 03 October 2018. The festival runs from 27 September to 07 October. EPA/Patrick Huerlimann

epa07067390 British actress Judi Dench poses on the Green Carpet before the screening of the movie "Red Joan" at the 14th Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) in Zurich, Switzerland, 03 October 2018. The festival runs from 27 September to 07 October. EPA/Patrick Huerlimann

 

The 89-year-old actress has hit out at the growing trend of pre-show alerts being read out before live shows to prepare sensitive people for scenes of violence, abuse, bereavement, loud noises and habits like smoking.

Asked about such warnings, she told the Radio Times magazine: “My God, it must be a pretty long trigger warning before King Lear or Titus Andronicus.

“I can see why they exist, but if you’re that sensitive, don’t go to the theatre, because you could be very shocked.

“Where is the surprise of seeing and understanding it in your own way?”

She has echoed the opinions of her James Bond successor Ralph Fiennes – who took over the role of Q from her in the 007 franchise – as insisted earlier this year that audiences have “gone too soft”.

He argued that theatre at its heart should shock and disturb the audience, while an element of surprise is a big part of what makes the art form “so exciting”.

The 61-year-old actor told the BBC: “We didn’t used to have trigger warnings.

“There are very disturbing scenes in Macbeth, terrible murders and things, but I think the impact of theatre is that you should be shocked and you should be disturbed.

“I don’t think you should be prepared for these things and when I was young we never had trigger warnings before a show.”

However, he agreed that warnings about strobe lighting should stay in place, along with notices about props which could damage someone’s health.

Sir Ian McKellen, who turns 85 on May 25, is another theatre veteran who has bemoaned the amount of warnings, particularly after signs were put up for his run in ‘Frank and Percy’ at London’s Other Palace.

Speaking to Sky News back in September 2023, he said: “Outside theatres and in the lobbies, including this one, the audience is warned ‘there is a loud noise and at one point, there are flashing lights’, ‘there is reference to smoking’, ‘there is reference to bereavement’.

“I think it’s ludicrous, myself, yes, absolutely. I quite like to be surprised by loud noises and outrageous behaviour on stage.”

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