Ralph Fiennes: Time To Get Rid Of Trigger Warnings In The Theatre

Trigger warnings for theatre audiences should be scrapped because people should be “shocked and disturbed” by what they see, the actor Ralph Fiennes has said.

The warnings are issued before the beginning of a performance to alert audiences to upsetting or distressing content and have become increasingly commonplace in theatres.

Fiennes, 61, renowned for his roles in Schindler’s List and the Harry Potter films and currently starring in a touring production of Macbeth, said audiences should be “shocked and disturbed”.

He told BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “I think we didn’t use to have trigger warnings. I mean, they are very disturbing scenes in Macbeth, terrible murders and things.

“But I think the impact of theatre should be that you’re 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 for shows.”

The actor said warnings for issues that could “affect people physically”, such as strobe effects, should still be flagged to audiences.

He said: “Shakespeare’s plays are full of murderers, full of horror. As a young student and lover of the theatre, I never experienced trigger warnings telling me: ‘By the way in King Lear, Gloucester is going to have his eyes pulled out’ … Theatre has to be alive and connect in the present.

“It’s the shock, the unexpected, that’s what makes an actor (in) theatre so exciting.”

The Lord of the Rings star Ian McKellen previously called for trigger warnings to be scrapped after signs emerged at his own play Frank and Percy at The Other Palace in London.

McKellen told Sky News: “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’.”

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

The actor Christopher Biggins also criticised the use of trigger warnings after London’s Globe theatre issued warnings before a performance of the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet.

Biggins said: “Do we have to have signs for everything under the sun. It’s a joke. What they are trying to do is insulting to the mentality of theatregoers.”

Fiennes also addressed “worryingly high” ticket prices when asked about the reported £300 ticket price for the romantic comedy Plaza Suite at London’s Savoy Theatre.

He said: “I have to confess I was invited to the opening night (for Plaza Suite) and I got a freebie. It was very good. Yeah, they are brilliant, brilliant, brilliant comic performances.”

Fiennes, who is also known for his roles in The English Patient and The Grand Budapest Hotel, said his upcoming production of Macbeth had “20% of our tickets across the board” priced at £15-£20.

The production has upcoming dates in London and Washington DC.

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