Trigger Warning takes the approximate form of a ‘pre show announcement’ for what sounds to be quite probably the most ambitious piece of theatre in London, if not the world. However, it doesn’t quite align with my own experiences of content warnings, which tend to be limited to small boxes on websites or minute-long pre show talks.
Instead, I think that if this were actually placed before an actual show, it might become an act of psychological torture. The show description describes it as the “logical breaking point” of “the politics behind safe spaces and the culture of offence”, and in some ways that feels true. It feels like watching the most misguidedly well-meaning team trying very hard to make sure that everybody is okay, and in the process ensuring that nothing and nobody is remotely okay.
Interestingly, the absurdity seems to come largely from the context. For example, many theatres and productions do offer a synopsis which audiences can access if they feel it may help them. However, I am fully convinced that no theatre has ever waited until that audience is fully seated in the dark – and then begun to pressure them to read said synopsis.
I think that whenever the controversy surrounding trigger warnings raises its head, this show is more or less what those opposed to published or available trigger warnings may picture: warnings so extensive and wrapped up in profoundly useless minutiae that they not only render the play itself useless, but replace it all together.
It’s important that I acknowledge here that I spend a good 40% of this show with more or less no idea what was going on, and I think that’s how the creators want it. It veers between relatively direct satirical comment on the effects that warning for literally everything could hypothetically have, and sections which are far less transparent in meaning. Some of these build in such a way that their meaning is evident, others not so much.
Kath Duggan and Daniel Hay-Gordon are interesting to watch as the two hosts who are just barely using their power for good. Barely. Their comedic timing and immutable ability to keep a straight face often holds the piece together.
I suppose for me, the questions raised by this piece fall fairly heavily into the category of things we don’t need to worry about. Of course, this is a satire on what happens when something logical is taken too far. However, it feels more like a commentary on what happens when a well-meaning system is chronically misunderstood.
Trigger Warning is playing Camden People’s Theatre until 9 November. For more information and tickets, visit the Camden People’s Theatre website.