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‘Four Weddings’ star Simon Callow lambasts UK theaters for trigger warnings

‘Sound of Music’ performance alerted audience to Nazi themes; earlier this year, Jewish star Tracy-Ann Oberman said ‘The Merchant of Venice’ didn’t need antisemitism caution

British actor/author Simon Callow on August 5, 2019 at the Samuel Goldwyn theatre in Beverly Hills. (Chris Delmas/AFP)
British actor/author Simon Callow on August 5, 2019 at the Samuel Goldwyn theatre in Beverly Hills. (Chris Delmas/AFP)

LONDON (AFP) — British actor Simon Callow, who starred in the 1990s hit film “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” on Friday took aim at theaters for their growing use of trigger warnings.

The actor, also known for “A Room With a View,” penned a letter to The Times daily after a theater in southern Britain warned people thinking of buying tickets for an upcoming production of The Sound of Music that it touched on “the threat of Nazi Germany and the annexation of Austria.”

“There is a fundamental failure to grasp what the theater is: not a model for behavior but a crucible in which we look at what it is to be human,” the 74-year-old actor wrote.

Chichester Festival Theatre said on its website it wanted the audience to feel “truly welcome and comfortable,” adding that “some people may find certain themes distressing.”

But Callow said the theater was not a “pulpit but a gymnasium of the imagination.”

“It is, precisely, and by definition, a safe space because it is perfectly clear that what happens on the stage is performed by actors, on a set, very visibly lit by artificial light, and that the whole thing is an act of imagination,” he added.

“Hamlet will not die but get up to take a curtain call; likewise, Falstaff will not succumb to diabetes but will take the padding off.”

Callow is not the first to speak out publicly against the trend for trigger warnings.

Actress Tracy-Ann Oberman earlier this year resisted adding them to her own adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.”

Tracy-Ann Oberman. (Wikipedia)

Some argue that the 16th-century play which features a Jewish moneylender, Shylock, is antisemitic. Others say it simply depicts antisemitism.

“I think these days we have computers, we have a thing called Google. If something’s upset you in a play, go look it up, go and find out when and why it was written — why it’s there,” Oberman, who is Jewish, told The Times earlier this week.

“You’re meant to feel emotions that feel uncomfortable, but in the safe environment of the theater,” she said.

Another production of the same play at the Globe theater last year however saw audiences warned that the play was one of the playwright’s “most problematic.”

The same theater also warned audiences attending a recent production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that the comedy contained “language of violence, sexual references, misogyny and racism.”

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