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London playhouse gives heads up on disturbing scenes for ‘snowflakes’

London playhouse gives heads up on disturbing scenes for ‘snowflakes’

Theatre’s warning for snowflakes: London playhouse gives heads up on scenes with drinking, smoking and violence so audiences aren’t upsetDonmar Warehouse trial gives guidance about potentially distressing scenes Theatre in Covent Garden warns about sexual assault, racism and violenceThis is to ensure ‘everybody feels comfortable’ and plays are ‘as accessible’But president of Critics’ Circle says controversial…


Theatre’s warning for snowflakes: London playhouse gives heads up on scenes with drinking, smoking and violence so audiences aren’t upset

  • Donmar Warehouse trial gives guidance about potentially distressing scenes 
  • Theatre in Covent Garden warns about sexual assault, racism and violence
  • This is to ensure ‘everybody feels comfortable’ and plays are ‘as accessible’
  • But president of Critics’ Circle says controversial move will ‘ruin the theatre’

A West End theatre was today accused of ‘ruining’ plays by issuing content warnings about disturbing scenes to avoid audiences becoming upset.

The Donmar Warehouse has started a trial giving guidance to theatregoers about potentially distressing scenes such as sexual assault, racism and violence.

The theatre in London’s Covent Garden has insisted the advisories are to ensure ‘everybody feels comfortable’ and the plays are ‘as accessible as possible’.

Donmar Warehouse executive producer Henny Finch (left, pictured with its artistic director Michael Longhurst) said the trial is 'just about being considerate to all audiences'

Donmar Warehouse executive producer Henny Finch (left, pictured with its artistic director Michael Longhurst) said the trial is ‘just about being considerate to all audiences’

Lynn Nottage's play Sweat, on show at the Gielgud Theatre, is one of the two plays currently showing for which the Donmar Warehouse has produced content advisories

Lynn Nottage’s play Sweat, on show at the Gielgud Theatre, is one of the two plays currently showing for which the Donmar Warehouse has produced content advisories

But theatre critic Mark Shenton, president of the Critics’ Circle, told the Guardian that the controversial move was a bad idea, saying: ‘Theatre is all about surprise.

‘By accommodating the sensitivities of some of its audience it could be ruining that surprise. You can’t protect people from everything. It will ruin the theatre.’

Terri Paddock, founder of the Mytheatremates website for theatre bloggers, added: ‘I feel it might actually harm our cause of liberalism rather than help us.’

She insisted she backed the trial, but was concerned it would be twisted by some critics as ‘an over-reach, or over-sensitivity, or political correctness gone mad’.

Among the advisories are a series of notes for its play Europe, which advised: ‘This play contains strong language, loud noises, flashing lights, smoking and violence.

‘The themes in this play include war, sexual assault and violence towards migrants. If you would like more details, please see the additional information below.’ 

Europe: Content advisory notes 

Europe by David Greig

This play contains strong language, loud noises, flashing lights, smoking and violence.

The themes in this play include war, sexual assault and violence towards migrants. If you would like more details, please see the additional information below.

Please note, the following text may include spoilers.

  • In the first half of the play, a man repeatedly places his hand on a woman’s leg, to her discomfort.
  • In the second half of the play, a man beats up another man due to his status as a migrant.
  • In the second half of the play, a man describes a violent attack on a woman.
  • In the second half of the play, a man mentions that his daughter was sexually assaulted.
  • Towards the end of the play, a man is threatening towards a woman, including repeatedly holding and touching her against her will.

Sweat: Content advisory notes 

Sweat by Lynn Nottage

(At the Gielgud Theatre) 

This play contains smoking, strong language and violence.

The themes in this play include drug use and racism. For more details, please see the additional information below.

Please note, the following information may include spoilers.

  • A white character uses a racial slur towards a character of colour at the start of the play.
  • A white character appears a number of times with white supremacist tattoos on his face and neck.
  • Several characters are seen to be under the influence of drugs at multiple points during the play.
The Sweat advisory on the Donmar website

The Sweat advisory on the Donmar website

The website says its warnings may include spoilers, with one saying: ‘A man repeatedly places his hand on a woman’s leg, to her discomfort.’

Other warnings state that a ‘man beats up another man due to his status as a migrant’ and ‘a man describes a violent attack on a woman’.

And in its notes on Lynn Nottage’s play Sweat, currently on show at the Gielgud Theatre, it says: ‘The themes in this play include drug use and racism.’

It also says a ‘white character uses a racial slur towards a character of colour’ and ‘a white character appears a number of times with white supremacist tattoos’.

In the face of criticism, the theatre’s executive producer Henny Finch stressed it was looking for feedback and told the Guardian: ‘I don’t think we’re pandering.

The Donmar Warehouse is a theatre located in London's Covent Garden which opened in 1977

The Donmar Warehouse is a theatre located in London’s Covent Garden which opened in 1977

An example of a content advisory note for the play Europe, on show at the Donmar Warehouse

An example of a content advisory note for the play Europe, on show at the Donmar Warehouse

‘I think it is just about being considerate to all audiences, and making sure that everybody feels comfortable, and making the theatre as accessible as possible.’

It comes two years after the Royal Court Theatre became the firstto issue a ‘trigger warning’ to avoid distressing the audience – but this is available only on request.

The theatre’s website states: ‘We don’t want to spoil anyone’s experience… and therefore avoid giving too much away when promoting the play.

‘It’s often the unexpected, shared moments and plot twists that capture the audience and create the debate and conversation beyond the performance.’

However, it urges anyone who knows there are certain themes which cause them distress to call the box office team to find out more about a show in advance.

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London playhouse gives heads up on disturbing scenes for ‘snowflakes’

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