Ralph Fiennes calls for trigger warnings in theatre to be scrapped

Ralph Fiennes has called for trigger warnings in theatre to be scrapped, saying audiences should be “shocked” and “disturbed” sometimes.

Trigger warnings are issued before the beginning of a show to alert theatregoers to upsetting or distressing content.

Fiennes, 61, who is currently starring in a production of Macbeth that’s playing at various warehouses around the UK, told BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “I think we didn’t use to have trigger warnings. I mean, they are very disturbing scenes in Macbeth, terrible murders and things.

“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.”

The actor said warnings for moments that could “affect people physically”, such as strobe effects, should remain.

He said: “Shakespeare’s plays are full of murderers, full of horror. As a young student and lover of the theatre, I never experienced trigger warnings telling me: ‘By the way in King Lear, Gloucester is going to have his eyes pulled out’… Theatre has to be alive and connect in the present.

“It’s the shock, the unexpected, that’s what makes an actor [in] theatre so exciting.”

Lord of the Rings star Ian McKellen also previously called for trigger warnings to be scrapped, calling them “ludicrous”.

Fiennes, who is known for starring in Schindler’s List and the Harry Potter films, also drew praise on social media for speaking passionately about an environmental cause on Kuenssberg’s show.

The actor appeared on the show to discuss his campaign against National Grid’s plans to install electricity hubs in the Suffolk countryside.

The plans would see National Grid installing motorway-width cable trenches, pylons and 26-metre high converter stations each taking up 12 football pitches. Many acres of heathland, coastline and wetland would be destroyed.

In response, the Suffolk Energy Action Solutions (SEAS) campaign group has launched a national petition backed by a film, Coast, co-written by Fiennes – who was born in Ipswich – and director Charles Sturridge. Watch the film here.

Fiennes is arguing for an offshore solution, but National Grid has said that is too expensive.

On Kuenssberg’s show, Fiennes said: “This is a long-term legacy for our country. This is the infrastructure going into the future. It might be more expensive in the short term, but in the mid-term we’re sure it’s not.”

He called the current plans “destructive”, adding: “We have to keep fighting for it. This isn’t just about Suffolk. This resonates throughout the country… It’s really, really vital. And what’s being proposed at the moment, we think is a disaster.”

Ralph Fiennes on ‘Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg’ (BBC)
Ralph Fiennes on ‘Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg’ (BBC)

Many viewers were impressed with Fiennes’s words on the show. “He’s wonderful speaker for his cause,” one person posted on Twitter/X.

“OMG just loved Ralph Fiennes’s passion on LK just now with regard to Green Energy substations. I haven’t felt a genuine physical impact like that coming through a screen for a very long time,” said another.

“Bravo Ralph Fiennes!” a third wrote. “Speaking with passion and vision about green issues, one rarely sees this from politicians. And importantly, looking to the long-term solution that is in the national interest, rather than the short-term fix for financial expediency!”

A fourth said: “Well done for having Ralph Fiennes on the show. He cares and does more about halting the devastating destruction of nature and England’s heritage than any politician these days ever will. Hats off.”

A fifth posted: “OK! Ralph Fiennes for prime minister! Making incredible sense on BBC Sunday with Laura.”

Fiennes’s campaign arrives as Keir Starmer drastically downgraded Labour’s flagship green energy policy on Thursday (8 February) to £4.7bn a year, from the previously promised £28bn.