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Matt Smith weighs in on theatre trigger warning debate: ‘Isn’t art meant to be dangerous?’

Matt Smith has weighed in on a debate over the inclusion of trigger warnings in theatre productions, stating that he believes it can lead to art being “sanitised”.

The Doctor Who and House of the Dragon actor has also appeared in several professional stage shows, including the current run of the Henrik Ibsen play An Enemy of the People in London’s West End.

During a recent appearance on the political chat show Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg (18 February), Smith, 41, concurred with Ralph Fiennesrecent statement maligning trigger warnings in the theatre.

“I agree. I watched it, I agree with Ralph utterly and completely,” he said.

“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.”

The Crown actor then noted that while he understood the need for alerts for elements such as strobe lighting, which can contribute to seizures and other health crises for people with epilepsy, other audience warnings can hurt the theatrical experience.

He continued: “But 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?”

Matt Smith disagrees with trigger warnings in theatre (Getty Images)
Matt Smith disagrees with trigger warnings in theatre (Getty Images)

Smith played the Time Lord in Doctor Who from 2010 to 2013. Continuing his point, the actor noted that the show’s lack of trigger warnings played an important part of in its popularity.

“I always thought that was one of the great things of doing Doctor Who is that you scare children but in a controlled way,” he said. “But you did scare them. I mean, imagine going to kids watching Doctor Who – ‘by the way this might scare you’. No, I’m not into it.”

Fiennes sparked the most recent instalment of this debate earlier this month during his appearance on the same programme when he discussed his current role in a touring production of Macbeth.

“I think we didn’t use to have trigger warnings. I mean, they are very disturbing scenes in Macbeth, terrible murders and things,” he noted.

“But I think the impact of theatre should be that you’re shocked and you should be disturbed. I don’t think you should be prepared for these things and when I was young, [we] never had trigger warnings for shows.”

Another star who has shared his distaste for trigger warnings is Sir Ian McKellen, who admitted that he found the practice “ludicrous” last year.