'Don't Go To The Theatre': Judi Dench Opens Up About Her Discomfort With Trigger Warnings

Judi Dench opened up about her discomfort with trigger warnings and has told sensitive fans to not go to the theatres.

Published on May 15, 2024  |  11:25 AM IST |  28.3K
Judi Dench Weighs On Her Discomfort With Trigger Warnings
Judi Dench (PC: Getty Images)

Judi Dench has expressed her disapproval of theatre trigger warnings, stating that audiences are often warned about potentially distressing content such as abuse, violence, and loud noises, which she found surprising.

The warnings, which inform audiences about potentially distressing content, including abuse, violence and loud noises, have become a point of contention in the industry in the last few years.

Judi Dench is against trigger warnings 

Dame Judi Dench has weighed in on the debate surrounding trigger warnings at the theatre. Dench, whose stage credits include Lady Macbeth, echoed the sentiments of others when noting her discomfort with trigger warnings.

“Do they do that?” Dench told the UK’s Radio Times: “It must be a pretty long trigger warning before King Lear or Titus Andronicus.”

She further added, “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?”

Judi Dench (Getty Images)

While Dench understands the need for these warnings in some circumstances, she too fears it impacts an audience's experience of watching a theatre production. "Do they do that? My God, it must be a pretty long trigger warning before King Lear or Titus Andronicus! Crikey, is that really what happens now?" 

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She continued, "I can see why they exist, and it is preparing people, I suppose, 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 further added, "Why go to the theatre if you're going to be warned about things that are in the play? Isn’t the whole business of going to the theatre about seeing something that you can be excited, surprised, or stimulated by? It’s like being told they're all dead at the end of King Lear. I don't want to be told."

Dench's comments come after Gregory Doran, the former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare company also warned anxious audience members to avoid plays so that they would not be upset by distressing content.

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

Earlier this year, Ralph Fiennes suggested that messaging prior to a stage performance warning of upsetting content should be scrapped, arguing that people should be shocked and disturbed by theatre, though he added that anything which could "affect people physically" such as strobe effects should still be flagged. "Theatre needs to be alive and in the present. It’s the shock, it’s the unexpected, that’s what makes the theatre so exciting,” Fiennes added.

Doctor Who star Smith also joined the conversation, saying, "That's why we go to the theatre, isn't it? To be shocked, to be arrested out of ourselves, to recognise ourselves in front and with an audience."

Judi Dench (Getty Images)

A brief about Judi Dench 

Judi Dench made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company. She performed in Shakespeare's plays, including Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. Dench also branched into film work and won a BAFTA Award as Most Promising Newcomer.

In 1968, she starred in Cabaret, earning excellent reviews. Over the next two decades, Dench became a significant British theatre performer for the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

She received critical acclaim for her work on television during this period, in the ITV comedy series A Fine Romance (1981–1984) and the BBC1 romantic series As Time Goes By (1992–2005), in both of which she held starring roles.

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Her film appearances were infrequent and included supporting roles in major films, such as James Ivory's A Room with a View (1985), before she rose to international fame as M in GoldenEye (1995), a role she went on to play in eight James Bond films, until her final cameo appearance in Spectre (2015).

Dench won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love (1998). Her other Oscar-nominated roles are for Mrs Brown (1997), Chocolat (2000), Iris (2001), Mrs Henderson Presents (2005), Notes on a Scandal (2006), Philomena (2013), and Belfast (2021).

She is also the recipient of several honorary awards, including the BAFTA Fellowship Award, the Society of London Theatre Special Award, and the British Film Institute Fellowship Award.

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