Christopher Biggins on trigger warnings in Shakespeare
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The British actor, 73, returns to our screens tonight for a show honouring, ‘Are You Being Served’. The ‘I’m A Celebrity’ winner appears in a special tribute programme to the BBC sitcom, which airs tonight on Channel 5 as part of the network’s ‘We Love’ series. ‘Are You Being Served’ ran for 12 years and was so popular it even spawned a film and a spin-off series, ‘Grace & Favour’.
Set in the clothing section of a department store, the comedy was the brainchild of Jeremy Lloyd and his collaborator David Croft.
Joanna Lumley, who was married to Jeremy, apparently encouraged him to write something inspired by his stint working at clothing store Simpsons of Piccadilly in the Fifties.
Some of the sitcom’s biggest stars, including Mollie Sugden and John Inman, provide a unique insight into the programme for ‘We Love’.
The show also features never-before-seen private photographs of the ‘Are You Being Served’ cast.
Joining Christopher to review the sitcom are a host of other famous faces, including Fern Britton, the Rev Richard Coles and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.
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As a veteran of the stage and screen, Christopher is no stranger to giving his opinions on the industry, including a recent woke decision taken at Shakespeare’s Globe.
The star, known for ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and his numerous pantomime appearances, waded into the row that erupted after the theatre began issuing trigger warnings and sharing the number for the Samaritans’ helpline before performances of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
The playhouse, based on the south bank of the River Thames in London, confirmed in August last year that it would issue alerts because of the play’s content, including suicide, drug use and fake blood.
Christopher gave his assessment of the situation as he was interviewed on GB News in August.
He said: “Sam Wanamaker so brilliantly restored that theatre and painstakingly went through every emotion someone could go through to make this a very special theatre for Shakespeare.
“He did a wonderful job and I think people are just ruining it now.
“I don’t understand what they want.”
The star was asked about whether the trigger warnings were a sign that audiences these days are “too sensitive”.
Christopher agreed that modern approaches to Shakespeare, including warnings over their content, may miss some of the nuances of the Bard.
He said: “I think from what I can gather from reading about it and being told about it, that is exactly what they are doing [missing nuances].
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“They are not looking at Shakespeare’s lines.
“How many hundreds of years has it been going, Shakespeare? About 400.
“It is perfect and people go to see it because it is on children’s curriculum at school.
“Theatregoers love to go and see it, so I think it is an insult to turn round and say to us as theatregoers, ‘Now listen, you may need some help getting through this’.”
Christopher, who has appeared in a string of Shakespeare productions, claimed that Samaritans have enough work to do as it is.
He said: “I think to say in this production that you can ring the Samaritans.
“The Samaritans have enough to do without having to worry about playgoers going to see a play and helping them.
“I don’t know what they can do.”
In a statement at the time, the Globe said: “We believe a 400-year-old play can be reinvented and remodelled in a multitude of ways.”
It added: “As we’ve chosen to focus on mental health, we want to provide information to those who may need it, as is standard practice in many forms of entertainment today.”
‘We Love… Are You Being Served’ airs on Channel 5 tonight from 7:45pm-9:15pm.
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