Content warnings are on the feed again. We used to think - like many others - it was an unnecessary indulgence but ......
We have been in the theatre on 2 occasions when an audience member has been triggered. Once without a foyer announcement or program warning... Terrible thing, just awful. Someone headed out to the theatre for a night and found themselves reliving the most difficult moment of their life. No one would went to do anything to cause such trauma. No one would want to be responsible for that
The second time was with a foyer warning and program and online information. Again, a truly awful thing for anyone to experience. But there was some comfort in knowing that this particular audience member had made a decision to attend based on all the information made available to them.
We have also been in the theatre when someone fainted due to confronting content on stage, and the show was stopped. An incredible display of professionalism followed from ushers who cared for the young man, to the young women on stage who waited in character at the most difficult moment of the play, and the stage manager who called the stop and then the restart.
And we have been in the audience of a play so controversial that we received an email in advance from box office with warnings. And when someone became unwell during the perf due to content, the show was stopped and a well oiled machine moved to make sure she, the audience around her and the cast were safe and well. And an incredible cast picked up perfectly when all was calm
We programmed a play so challenging in form and content that half the audience walked out during the first preview (one shaking her head and muttering to FOH ‘good luck with that’). Literally half the audience. By opening we had tweaked the warnings and content information and the rest of the season went smoothly.
At KXT we often program risky and challenging work. We’re a theatre in a pub in the heart of the city’s so-called but fading red light district. If you’re going to see a play with confronting content it will be here.
We have regularly staged work that other venues have turned down due to content. (We also program happy plays that make you smile and laugh but this post is not about that)
Also we support emerging artists and emerging work, which may mean theatre that pushes the boundaries. It’s how you find the new and exciting voices of the next generation of theatre makers.
Content warnings allow theatre makers to push boundaries, to explore the power of theatre, to discover their (or their audiences) “line in the sand” and to do so freely, confident that they do no harm.