Theatre ridiculed for issuing Nazi trigger warnings for the Sound of Music

Audience members were warned that the play might contain ‘distressing’ themes


A new theatre production of The Sound of Music has come under fire after a trigger warning was issued that the musical touches on 'Nazi Germany and the annexation of Austria'.

Chichester Festival Theatre, where the revival of the stage show is due to open next week, is warning ticket buyers that some of them may find Nazis "distressing".

Chichester Festival Theatre's production will run from July 10 to September 3, with the West End actress Gina Beck starring in the role of Maria.

In a statement, the theatre said the play contained themes of "music; family; romance; the threat of Nazi Germany and the annexation of Austria".

Rabbi Jonathan Romain, who leads Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire, described such warnings as "incredibly patronising" and said they did a "disservice" to the audience.

He added: "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."

The Sound of Music story was turned into a Broadway musical in 1959 by Jewish playwrights Rodgers and Hammerstein. It was then adapted into the Disney classic starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

A spokeswoman for Chichester Festival Theatre told The Times: "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. 

“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 institutions have also made the headlines for similar controversial trigger warnings.

Queen’s University Belfast found itself being ridiculed after applying a trigger warning to Shakespeare's works in 2017.

Earlier this year, Jewish actress Tracy-Ann Oberman said her production, The Merchant of Venice, would not contain any trigger warnings. 

This is despite warnings being issued ahead of a similar production at Globe Theatre's Sam Wanamaker Playhouse last year.

The Shakespeare play contains several antisemitic tropes and audiences attending the Globe production were warned it was one of the Bard's "most problematic". 

The Globe has also added warnings to other Shakespeare plays such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, telling theatregoers that the 400-year-old comedy contained "language of violence, sexual references, misogyny and racism”.The Sound of Music centres on Maria, a young Austrian novice who is sent by her convent to the home of the Von Trapp family in Salzburg. She becomes governess to the family's seven children.

After the Nazis invaded Austria, the family fled and hiked across the Alps to safety in Switzerland.

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