Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram

Judi Dench Speak Against Trigger Warnings, Says “If You’re That Sensitive, Don’t Go To The Theatre”

Photo Credit: John Phillips / Getty Images for BFI
Photo Credit: John Phillips / Getty Images for BFI

Actors of the stage are speaking out against recent trigger warnings provided to audiences prior to viewing stage productions, including Dame Judi Dench. While the theater has long been a place for shock and discomfort coupled with entertainment, trigger warnings have started to be issued to warn audiences of the types of content they will be subject to during the shows. For many actors, this doesn’t sit well with them.

Dench has been gracing the stage for decades

Young Judi Dench in Ophelia costume.
Judi Dench at a dress rehearsal of ‘Hamlet‘ at the Old Vic theatre, London, 11th September 1957. Dench made her London debut as Ophelia in the Old Vic Company’s production. (Photo Credit: Bob Haswell / Daily Express / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Dench’s acting career actually began on stage in 1957 when she starred as Ophelia in Hamlet. She then starred in several other Shakespearean plays, including playing Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. In the early years of her career, she worked for the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company, cementing herself as one of the most significant British theater performers to grace the stage. 

Her experience with theater early in her career has certainly changed over the years. Attending the theater has significantly changed. Nowadays, content warnings have been provided to audiences to warn them of potentially disturbing content, and this has significantly split the theater community. While some say that they serve a similar function to warnings about strobe lights for those susceptible to seizures, others argue that they greatly diminish the power of the arts to shock and disturb audiences.

She says stay home if you’re sensitive

Judi Dench sitting.
Judi Dench on December 15, 2023, in London, England. (Photo Credit: John Phillips / Getty Images)

Dench was unaware that trigger warnings were being issued to audiences prior to viewing productions and was surprised to learn about them. “Do they do that?” she said on UK’s Radio Times. “It must be a pretty long trigger warning before King Lear or Titus Andronicus.”

After learning about them, Dench quickly criticized the audience’s sensitivity to the content included in plays. “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?”

She’s not the only one to speak out

Headshot of Ralph Fiennes and Sir Ian McKellen.
Ralph Fiennes and Sir Ian McKellen. (Photo Credit: Charles Sykes / Bravo / Getty Images and Dave Benett / Getty Images for The Wolseley Hospitality Group)

Dench isn’t the first person in theater to speak out against the trigger warnings being provided to audiences of stage productions. Her commentary follows that of fellow actors Ralph Fiennes and Sir Ian McKellen, as well as others.

In an interview with BBC, Fiennes said that visitors of the theater have “gone soft” compared to the audiences of yesteryear. “The impact of theatre should be that you’re shocked, and should be that you’re disturbed, I don’t think you should be prepared for these things,” he said. “It’s the shock, it’s the unexpected, that’s what makes an act of theatre so exciting.” McKellen separately shared a similar sentiment, saying, “I think it’s ludicrous. I quite like to be surprised by loud noises and outrageous behavior on stage.”

More from us: ‘Seinfeld’ Script That Was Too Disturbing to Air Has Been Leaked

We are curious to see who else might speak out against these trigger warnings.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!