In the last few weeks, a number of influential theatre people have become very heated when it comes to trigger warnings.

For the uninitiated, these are messages posted at theatres or on their web sites warning potential customers of issues that might be harmful or cause offence.

It seems helpful to divide these warnings into two categories: those that might cause physical harm and others that have the potential to offend or irritate. Even recent contributors to the debate such as Dame Judi Dench might accept that if someone could fall ill or even die as a result of a visit to a theatre, that might be a step too far.

Trigger warnings for things like strobe lighting that could lead to an epileptic fit or smoke effects / gunshots that might, in extreme circumstances, trigger a heart attack seem necessary, both to protect patrons but also theatres, which might just find themselves on the wrong end of a legal suit if somebody passed away as a direct consequence of the failure to warn them of potential harm. After all, the peanuts that they sell in the interval will be clearly marked as dangerous for those of peanut allergies.

The trickier part of this conversation relates to subject matter that will make some people splutter, while others fail to recognise that there is a problem. Possibly the most common candidates in the past have been smoking, nudity and what is sometimes referred to somewhat amusingly as 'language'.

With the exception of Matthew Bourne’s Play Without Words, every play is built around language; the point that theatre managements sometimes fail to make is that certain foul words are deemed unacceptable in some circles. In this day and age, it is hard to believe that even a 10-year-old will not be familiar with every single one of those, rendering this warning redundant for almost all.

For this critic, the depiction of death, torture and unnatural acts on stage is more likely to be the cause of angry departures by disgruntled theatregoers and these are typically offered without any advance notice. Blocking this category immediately impacts a significant proportion of Shakespeare’s canon, and Sarah Kane wouldn’t have a hope, while some of my friends might start throwing things on stage if they happened to attend a Martin McDonagh play featuring mistreatment of moggies.

In the more distant past, anything relating to the monarchy or that might be considered sacrilegious was forbidden. This shows how fashions change and people have generally become more accepting, though that is certainly not the case in America where censorship has returned with a vengeance.

While there is clearly a growing body of artistic types who would prefer to eschew trigger warnings and allow people to take their chances, there are still good reasons to continue the practice of warning people off visits that are unsuitable.

It seems perfectly sensible to protect children from potential nightmares, which would be good enough reason to have an age restriction on plays such as Titus Andronicus and King Lear.

As governments become more sanctimonious, one might also suggest that a handful of harmless trigger warnings to be ignored by most is a much better prospect than the return of censorship, which certain government ministers (though several likely candidates have left their posts in recent years) would undoubtedly love to reimpose.

Finally, there are commercial considerations for producers. They don’t want to be offering refunds to people storming out of sold-out shows. It is also a sad fact that some of the trigger warnings are effectively fantastic marketing tools. Advertising nudity, gratuitous violence and unnatural acts undoubtedly sells tickets, whether we like it or not.

This debate will probably rage for a few weeks and then disappear without trace, which is as it should be.