Danièle Sanderson, deputy head of Birmingham School of Acting, Birmingham City University.

The opening night of William Tell at the Royal Opera House on Monday received boos and heckling after Italian director Damiano Michieletto staged a rape scene with nudity. How should playwrights address hard-hitting and sensitive issues without offending audiences? Birmingham School of Acting‘s Danièle Sanderson discusses…

Sometimes directors and playwrights who want to be seen to be controversial can go quite far in their portrayal of hard hitting subjects. It can feel to them as if they are being ‘real’ or ‘truthful’.

This feeling is quite seductive and those involved can genuinely not realise that they have overstepped the mark between provocative art and bad taste. They lose the perspective of portraying a shocking, vulgar or offensive event and end up simply being offensive themselves.

Art should definitely challenge opinion and at times portray events that offend which can make an audience very uncomfortable but it should be the subject that is offensive and not the director themselves. There is a fine line that takes a lot of skill to tread and many controversial artists trip up in the pursuit of  acquiring the skills and sensitivity to walk the line.

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