13 March 2019, The Tablet

Fingering the trigger


Fingering the trigger
 

Cyprus Avenue
Royal Court Theatre, London

The Son
Kiln Theatre, London

So-called “trigger warnings” – advice to audiences of potentially upsetting content – are now standard in cinema, TV, and even universities, some of which now allow students to drop texts or subjects that they fear will disturb. Theatre long baulked at such precautions, arguing that, as good drama is constructed to conceal the reveal, it seems counterproductive to announce the outcome on a poster.

General cultural pressure to restrict offence, though, has forced producers to compromise. The Royal Court, for example, now posts age suitability – 14-plus for the latest production, David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue – and has a phone line advising on the content of the show.

Such sandbagging is appropriate because this is the play that, when first seen at the Court in 2016, triggered a call for theatrical warnings. Stephen Rea repeats his extra-ordinary performance, voice and body coiled with feelings later terrifyingly released, as Eric, an Ulster Unionist. Looking into the face of his daughter’s first child, Grandpa is convinced that the baby has been possessed by Gerry Adams, a Satan both to Eric’s religious and political faiths.

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