Page 28 - Phonebox Magazine June 2024
P. 28

 CHANGING HISTORY ...keep a finger off the trigger, for art’s sake
Back onto one of my favourite subjects, trigger warnings on old comedies. It’s actually got even worse than that, and there are now trigger warnings on Shakespeare plays. As Dame Judy Dench says, “Do they do that? My God, it must be a pretty long trigger warning before King Lear or Titus Andronicus!”
For those unaware of it, trigger warnings are messages put out to warn viewers on film, TV or stage productions, warning them about things that may upset them.
As many involved have now said, if you think you are likely to become anxious about a production, then don’t go to it. Part of the theatre surely is to be shocked, enjoy the unexpected, and make of it what you will.
I always understood the warnings issued about strobe lighting and the like, which may bring on epilepsy, but the rest is sheer nonsense. I also remember in my panto days that we often did a ‘relaxed’ performance where youngsters, in particular those who suffered from anxiety or learning problems, there was far less pyro and explosions, and you generally played it all a little less aggressively, especially if you played the villain. Although that occasionally backfires as I recall our Abanazer in ‘Aladdin’ trying to coax the youngsters to boo him in a ‘relaxed’ performance, and said to the audience,“ It’s ok, you’re allowed to shout at me,” and a young boy in the front row stood up and shouted “Bastard!” As you can imagine, those of us due on stage immediately after this had some difficulty holding it together.
Back to Shakespeare, it’s pretty well known that if you turn up to Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth, things aren’t likely to turn out well. I’m told that one production of Romeo and Juliet had trigger warnings about sword fighting leading to death, poisoning, suicide, underage romance and war. Sort of gives away the plot, really.
But my direct contact is within the comedy field. Having adapted Steptoe and Son, Porridge and Allo Allo to the stage, I’ve read every script on those, and for any of you who have seen those comedies, with the exception of Allo Allo that has no basis in reality other than it being set in war-torn France, it is generally recognised that apart from being brilliantly written and funny, they are reflections of a certain era. A history really, and to change them is like trying to change history. 28 Phonebox Magazine | June 2024
I also adapted Tony Hancock TV scripts to the stage but there wasn’t really anything in that to cause any anxiety although I’m sure someone would find something if they tried hard enough, and the same applied to Ripping Yarns (although the episode ‘Roger of the Raj’ seems to trigger some people) but again it wasn’t written with any semblance of reality. The Likely Lads was something of a breakthrough. Two normal lads in the North East are just living and doing things that everyone else did. Its revival, ‘Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads,’ was even more popular and followed a storyline that dealt mainly with someone trying to better themselves and the other one holding him back. Brilliant show, but it has trigger warnings.
Steptoe and Son was different and the early series were quite fierce with the old man being racist, and just about every other ‘ist’ you could list, but as the writers pointed out, it was a reflection of a time they had known, and the son was consistently trying to change the old man’s views and lead a more socially aware life. But they were trapped in utter poverty and there was no escape. Reality.
Regarding Porridge, I would imagine that in comparison to what really goes on in prison, trigger warnings are laughable. God help any writer who has tried to make a realistic comedy about prison now. But again the characters in Porridge were realistic and we all know someone like ‘Fletch’, ‘Horrible Harris’ or ‘Mr Mackay’.
Allo Allo is brilliant nonsense, with every nationality being laughed at. I mean – look at the concept, a middle-aged, overweight café owner being sexually attractive to young waitresses. Really? The thing that amazes me the most is that David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd, the writers, sat down and thought the French Resistance in wartime France would make a good comedy, but by golly it did. We are now working on another stage adaptation of this show, and I’m very pleased to say that the David Croft Estate, who own the rights, have absolutely no time for any beggaring about with attempts to make it politically correct in any way whatsoever. Thank goodness for sanity.
One of the most amazing things to come out of this all is that there are now trigger warnings for ‘Terry and June’. If you remember that series then I should think, like me, you’re scratching your heads as the only thing I can remember was that the vicar’s trousers fell down when he went to visit them to pick up jumble for a jumble sale (which I confess made me laugh) but if a trigger warning is required on that show, then some would agree that, most certainly, Macbeth needs one. But only if you’re a pillock and want to change history.
Next month let’s look at the new Labour led MK City Council and what they’ll do for Olney. Some of it may offend, so I’ll include a trigger warning.
See you next month Dave...

   26   27   28   29   30