Coventry & Warwickshire

RSC project to ask if Shakespeare still shocks audiences

Sean Hart as Demetrius, Luke MacGregor as Chiron, Hannah Morrish as Lavinia and Nia Gwynne as Tamora Image copyright Helen Maybanks
Image caption The project will look at whether audiences are as shocked in cinemas as at the theatre

The emotional response to one of Shakespeare's most shocking plays will be measured in a unique new project.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will monitor the response of audiences to Titus Andronicus on stage and on screen.

Theatre and cinemagoers will have their heart rate monitored while they watch the play as part of the research, the theatre company said.

The play is renowned for being the playwright's goriest revenge tragedy.

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The RSC said the project will explore:

  • Does Shakespeare still shock?
  • Is the emotional engagement of watching a play live at the theatre the same or different to that of watching it live at the cinema?

Becky Loftus, head of audience insight at the RSC, said research will help the theatre company to better understand their audiences and will be used "as part of our strategies to encourage as many people as possible to enjoy Shakespeare's plays".

Image copyright Helen Maybanks
Image caption Titus Andronicus is renowned for being one of Shakespeare's goriest plays

Research will be carried out with Ipsos Mori to monitor the emotional engagement of both audiences.

Wearing heart rate monitors, some participants will watch the theatre production in Stratford-upon-Avon, while a second group will watch the broadcast of the play in a cinema in August.

The two groups will be demographically matched based on age, theatre experience and gender to achieve a comparable set of results, the company said.

As well as monitoring their heart rate, participants will complete a series of short interviews immediately after the show.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The RSC project will monitor the response of audiences to Titus Andronicus on stage and on screen

Ms Loftus said: "With programmes such as Game of Thrones and films by the likes of Tarantino, TV and cinema audiences are very used to seeing violence on their screens.

"We wanted to investigate whether Shakespeare, our greatest storyteller, still has the power to shock."

The findings from the project will be released in November.

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