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Judi Dench Sparks Debate After Bluntly Criticizing Trigger Warnings For Theatrical Productions

The Oscar winner was asked by 'The Radio Times' about her opinions on content warnings for theatre productions, and she didn't mince words.

Judi Dench
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Acclaimed actor Judi Dench didn't hold back when asked to weigh in on the topic of trigger warning requirements for theater patrons.

"Don’t go to the theater," she said to those who are "that sensitive."

With a career spanning seven decades, her versatility in theater, film, and TV knows no bounds.

She is known for her work in films like A Room with a View, Mrs Henderson Presents,Philomena, and eight James Bond films as M, and is a venerated British theater actor, having performed in various productions for the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Speaking to Radio Timesmagazine, the 89-year-old Oscar and Tony winner lamented:

“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?”

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 theater, because you could be very shocked."
“Where is the surprise of seeing and understanding it in your own way?”

Dench elaborated by challenging public opinion with questions.

"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."

Fans of the theater agreed.

However, not everyone subscribed to her point of view.

Some interpreted her take as tone-deaf and ableist.

People offered solutions for consideration.

Her comments followed that of fellow actors Ralph Fiennes and Matt Smith earlier this year expressing the same sentiment.

Fiennes, who starred in critically acclaimed films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Schindler's List, argued that trigger warnings should be scrapped, as audiences should be "shocked" and "disturbed" by the story elements unfolding on stage.

"I don't think you should be prepared for these things," he said. The BAFTA and Tony Award winner added that anything else during the performance that can "affect people physically" such as strobe effects qualified as fair advance warnings.

Smith, known for being the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor in the BBC's Doctor Who series, added to the discussion with:

"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."

He added:

"I worry sometimes that we're moving towards a sort of sanitised version of everything and we're stripping the danger and the invention and the ingenuity out of [everything]. Isn't art meant to be dangerous?”