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Judi Dench on trigger warnings: if you’re that sensitive, avoid the theatre | Judi Dench


Don’t go to the theater, Dame Judi Dench told “sensitive” fans in response to pre-performance trigger warnings.

Warnings, which inform audiences of potentially disturbing content, including abuse, violence and loud noises, have become a point of contention in the industry over the past few years.

“Do they?” Dench said in an interview with the Radio Times. “My God, it must be quite a long warning before King Lear or Titus Andronicus!”

The 89-year-old Oscar-winning actor added: “I understand why they exist, but if you’re that sensitive, don’t go to the theater because you might be very shocked. Where’s the surprise in seeing it and figuring it out in your own way?’

Her comments come after Gregory Doran, former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company also warned anxious audience members to avoid plays so that they are not upset by disturbing content.

“How are you [content warnings] for Titus Andronicus?” Doran said. “You just don’t come. Don’t come if you’re worried, if you’re anxious – stay away.”

The content warnings have divided the theater community, with some likening them to warnings about flashing lights that can induce seizures, while others say they diminish the power of art and literature to shock and disturb.

Others who spoke out against them included Christopher Biggins and Ralph Fiennes, who suggested that modern audiences had “softened up too much”. “The theater must be alive in the present. That’s the shock, that’s the unexpected, that’s what makes theater so exciting,” Fiennes added.

Discussing her 1980s sitcom A Fine Romance, Dench also reflected on what else has changed in the industry since she started – including actors using stage microphones and self-recorded auditions. “[It] it puts you at a distance … it takes you further away from the audience,” she said. “The way we communicate seems to be getting more distant.”

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Last month, Olivia Colman has joined the chorus of Hollywood stars expressing her distaste for self-recorded auditions, saying that she would not have “got where I am if I had to do self-recordings”.

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