Dame Judi Dench has weighed in on the debate surrounding trigger warnings at the theatre, following earlier comments from the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Matt Smith.


Earlier this year, 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.

Doctor Who star Smith later 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."

In this week’s issue of Radio Times magazine, Dench is quizzed on the topic – and while she understands the need for these warnings in some circumstances, she too fears it impacts an audience's experience of watching a theatre production.

She said: "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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"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?

"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 was speaking to Radio Times as part of a retrospective on 1980s sitcom A Fine Romance, which is getting a repeat showing on Rewind TV (available on Sky from 23rd May).

You can read the full interview with Dench and her A Fine Romance co-star Susan Penhaligon in the new issue of Radio Times, on sale from Tuesday 14th May.

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We've got so much more theatre in the Going Out section. Try the best open air theatre shows and how to get tickets to Inside No.9 Stage/Fright. Plus our review of Two Strangers.