Judi Dench has had it with trigger warnings

Theatres need to stop pandering to the overly sensitive.

Thomas Osborne

Topics Culture UK

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If you’re the kind of person who thinks they need a trigger warning at the theatre, then perhaps you should just stay at home. That’s the no-nonsense advice of Dame Judi Dench, the renowned Shakespearean actress turned Hollywood mega star.

In an interview with Radio Times yesterday, Dench said she was baffled to discover that warnings for potentially distressing content were being placed on Shakespeare’s plays. ‘My God, it must be a pretty long trigger warning before King Lear or Titus Andronicus’, she said. ‘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?’

Regrettably, this common-sensical view is almost daring and radical these days. Even though Shakespeare had been enthralling audiences of all backgrounds for 400 years without the need for so-called trigger warnings, they have cropped up on a vast range of productions of late.

Earlier this year, Shakespeare’s Globe in London alerted audiences that Antony and Cleopatra features ‘depictions of suicide, scenes of violence and war, and misogynoir references’ (‘misogynoir’, if you’re wondering, refers to misogyny against black women). Last year, a trigger warning for ‘ableism’ was added to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 2021, a production of Romeo and Juliet warned audiences about ‘depictions of suicide’, ‘moments of violence’ and ‘references to drug use’. There was even a trigger warning about gunshot sounds.

That this is all patently ridiculous should have been obvious to everyone involved. After all, Shakespeare’s work probes at the human condition, it isn’t supposed to be comfort viewing. Even so, why do theatres think grown adults need to be warned about such content? We’re not infants.

If there really are some oversensitive souls out there, who genuinely need to be warned that Hamlet doesn’t have a happy ending, then they should take Judi Dench’s advice and stay away from the theatre. The rest of us would rather do without these babyish trigger warnings.

Thomas Osborne is an editorial assistant at spiked.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Culture UK


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