Theatre slammed as ‘patronising’ for issuing trigger warning of ‘Nazi Germany’ content in Sound of Music revival

5 July 2023, 21:15

A new theatre showing the iconic musical has been criticised after it issued a ‘guidance warning’ about some of the show’s contents.
A new theatre showing the iconic musical has been criticised after it issued a ‘guidance warning’ about some of the show’s contents. . Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

A new theatre showing the iconic musical has been criticised after it issued a ‘guidance warning’ about some of the show’s contents.

Chichester Festival is hosting a revival of the the classic musical, but those planning to attend the launch have been warned they “may find certain themes distressing”.

The plot, based on the real-life story of the von Trapp family, was turned into a broadway musical in 1959 and then adapted for screens in the film version,

Now the musical is to head to the stage again at Chichester Festival Theatre, running from July 10 to September 3, but the production team has come under fire ahead of the show’s launch.

The theatre issued warnings to those planning to attend that it contains themes of: “Music; family; romance; the threat of Nazi Germany and the annexation of Austria" as the plot follows the story of the von Trapps, who are forced to flee Austria after Nazis invade.

But Rabbi Jonathan Romain, who leads Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire, told The Times that these types of warnings are “incredibly patronising” and do a “disservice” to audience members.

He said: “They are almost warning them off from learning about things that may be unpleasant but are certainly real and make up the world.

“They also seem to be incredibly patronising and sort of dismissing the resilience that people have. There are many terrible tragedies, but human endurance and resilience is actually quite remarkable.”

Sometimes known as ‘trigger warnings’ these types of content notices have gained a divisive cultural reputation in recent years.

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A spokesperson for Chichester Festival Theatre said: “We include general guidance on content and themes (not trigger warnings) on our website for all our productions, for audiences and, in the case of The Sound of Music, particularly for parents to make informed decisions about age suitability.

“It's for audiences to choose whether to open and read these or not, but we know from feedback that many people do find them helpful. Of course theatre can and should be challenging; but, for a family musical, we're giving honest and factual guidance, for those who require it, that the show contains serious themes as well as Rodgers and Hammerstein's glorious songs and uplifting story.”

Other historic works of arts and culture have been subject of criticism in recent years over plans to introduce trigger warnings.

Virginia Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse’, originally published in 1927, now comes with a trigger warning due to the book’s reflection of attitudes at the time.

While earlier this year Aberdeen University faced criticism as they put a ‘trigger warning’ on children’s book Peter Pan.

The university put the JM Barrie book on a list of titles that may leave adults needing help or support after reading them, adding that they may contain: “Odd perspectives on gender, but no objectionable material.”

Many online have criticised Chichester Festival Theatre’s decision to follow suit, although the theatre has denied its content guidance is a ‘trigger warning’.

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