Is this a new age of enlightenment? We live and create in a climate when reason, it seems, is ruled by individualism, and practice is hampered by fear of complaint. A moment in history when offence may be routinely taken or manufactured; our ‘friends’ are divided and unfriended, our ideas unplatformed; a time when, if art is censored, debate is inevitably stultified.
Clarissa! is a play about corrosive celebrity. If you really want or need to know what to expect before you book tickets you will find more explicit details when you scroll to the end. However, should you?
It has now become good practice in some theatres to offer audiences advance warnings of content. More than just unexpected bangs or strobes.
Here’s some advice found on the Royal Court’s website.
We don’t want to spoil anyone’s experience of a new play at the Royal Court and therefore avoid giving too much away when promoting the play. It’s often the unexpected shared moments and plot twists that capture the audience and create the debate and conversation beyond the performance.
Fair enough. Nothing to argue with there.
However, we’re also conscious that these moments can be particularly distressing for some individuals. If there are certain themes that you know would cause you extreme distress and you’d like to speak to one of the Royal Court team to find out more about a show before you book, call the box office or email us.
I am not sure that Clarissa would like the caring approach taken by the Royal Court. At the heart of her celebrity Clarissa is a private woman. Why would she ever wish to declare to the box office that she is likely to be distressed by unexpected content?
Difficult to know what to do for the best, isn’t it? What’s best anyway – creative conceits or a comfy audience? Once you open the Trigger Warning can of worms… Is the audience paying for an experience or plot spoilers?
The Royal Court Theatre is an awesomely original hotbed at the London end of the M4. Meanwhile, up the road, if you get off the motorway at any of the Cardiff junctions you can find the Seligman Theatre which is part of the awesomely creative Chapter in Canton. That’s where Clarissa! is being staged from the 13th to 15th December 2018.
So, back to wrestling with Trigger Warnings.
If you are happy with a generalised ‘Clarissa! contains adult themes’ or the more cinematic “Parental Guidance’ then it is probably safe for you to leave this to leave this blog.
If even that was too much information, I apologise but you have been warned. Clarissa! has content.
OK, if you are still reading then you should be told that Clarissa has lived a long and full life. Her story contains elements humanity and inhumanity. She has experienced moral and political censorship but it is art that hurts her most.
Chapter – more power to its figurative elbow – does not have an official policy on Trigger Warnings but will attach one by request if it seems appropriate. The cautious criteria are concerned, it seems, with offence rather than distress.
Clarissa! is not labelled with a Trigger Warning: she has a richly detailed private life but it is not graphic and she doesn’t swear too much, so that’s alright.
Clarissa! is a story of the power and excesses of celebrity. The purpose of the production is to entertain, but also to ‘provoke debate and conversation beyond the performance’. Clarissa has lived a full life. You will recognise her, you may even share some of her memories, and that may be Trigger Temptation enough.
Just down the road from Chapter, the quite wonderful Other Room theatre takes a different approach. Their website offers a Content Warning page. A brief click and a glance and it looks like no show arrives on the Other Room stage without baggage. Still, you can never be too careful or too caring; or is too much the default?
While writing this there have been broader conversations on the topic, admittedly with persons working in the arts and blessed with vested interests. However, interpreting Trigger Warnings as a form of censorship, the concept garnered a generally negative range of responses: from derision to sabotage: from ‘Winnie the Pooh has a Tigger Warning’ to a suggestion that each trigger should hot-linked to a helpline.
So, you have been warned: here are some Trigger Warnings for Clarissa!
Clarissa! contains visual, textual and sub-textual references to:
If you have been affected by any of the topics listed in this article…