The Playgoer: Warning: Naughty Bits

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Warning: Naughty Bits

Maxie at the Guardian gets it right:

the Independent reported that a number of spectators [at the new Ian McKellen/Trevor Nunn King Lear] were "dismayed by the incident and said they had received no prior warning" that the staging contained full nudity. I would love to know who these people are and what kind of dainty world they live in....

A spokeswoman for the RSC has said that when the play officially opens on April 3 there will be warning notices in the foyer if the nudity, which is under discussion, is kept in. But should punters be babied in this way? I wonder whether the RSC's management will also be pointing out for those who haven't bumped into King Lear before that it features adultery, murder and eye-gouging? Or whether they will, in future, be posting signs informing audiences that Hamlet stabs an old man or that two horny teenagers get it on in Romeo and Juliet? Do warnings, somehow, make these things more palatable?....

The RSC met earlier this week to discuss whether parents and school groups should be warned about the content of King Lear. Isn't this just pandering to a Victorian primness about nudity? Sorry, but if children are old enough to understand the play, then they are old enough to see what people look like naked without going into shock.

And isn't it about time certain media outlets stop throwing a hissy fit (even if a more arch and above-it-all hissy fit) whenever actors strip down and stop running titilating feature articles on "why are people getting naked in the theatre"? You'd think we're still in the 60s.


Aaron Riccio said...

All the disclaimers, the endless warnings...they only serve to make theater less surprising. But that's something I go to the theater for: other people just want to see (especially when talking about classics) the show itself. My solution is to provide these warnings, but to put them in code or something, or out of the way, so that only people who want to know what to shelter their kids from (or themselves) will have the surprise ruined for them. I wasn't expecting nudity in "Take Me Out," but it worked. I didn't expect a gunshot in "Men of Steel," but it was perfect. What's next? A warning about violence in the theater?

Anonymous said...

How about a generic warning for all those silly folk who need warnings.

Warning: This play contains words and actions that someone, somewhere might find shocking, surprising, delightful, offensive, beautiful, vulgar, inane, whimsical, sublime, stupid, or challenging. All of the actors are naked underneath their costumes and costumes will vary according to the needs of the play. Sounds might be loud, or they might be quiet. Lights might be bright, or they might be dim. Live theatre is not recommended for those with a history of weak hearts, inflexible ideologies, no sense of wonder, or who are unable to handle questions of a moral, ethical, philosophical, or human nature.

If you don't like it, leave.

-The Management

Anonymous said...

I thought it's only in america but I guess England too.

These people will probably want to have like a nutrition label to show % of nudity, % of gun shot, % of the swearing, and % of silly audience.

Where is the element of surprise??

Playgoer said...

Of course there's one factor here we're not mentioning which probably explains the whole studpid thing.


I'm sure the theatres themselves know these warnings are silly. But legal counsel has no doubt urged them to prevent against any other lawyers who will take advantage of an epileptic seizure (strobe lights), bronchial cases (dry ice), and prudish parents (nudity).

As with all stupid warnings ("this coffee is hot!") they'll take looking silly over a court case any day.

Anonymous said...

In the US, isn't there some kind of NEA or Congressional stipulation for those receiving NEA funding requiring such postings that was fallout from the culture wars? Not that I'm defending that - au contraire! I vote for ltl's warning. But that might be a bigger factor than the possibility of lawsuits. I mean, really. Could somebody sue because they were offended by a play? (How rich I might be if that were possible !--though for a very different kind of offense.) What damage could they demonstrate was done to them?

In the early years of the Wow Cafe, somebody did a version of Snow White (or some other fairy tale; I don't quite remember.) Peggy Shaw was working the door. A woman stalked out, complaining: "Nobody told me there were going to be homosexuals in this play." Peggy replied: "Yeah, I know. Whenever I go to the theater, nobody warns me that it's going to be about heterosexuals."