Does Shakespeare still shock?

Royal Shakespeare Company launches audience research project with Ipsos MORI to monitor emotional response to Titus Andronicus on stage and on screen.

Does Shakespeare still shock?

The author(s)

  • Richard Garnham Innovation Manager
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Titus Andronicus is renowned for being Shakespeare’ goriest revenge tragedy, as the body count piles up and blood fills the stage, the play poses questions about the nature of sexuality, family, class and the morality of revenge. For the RSC’s forthcoming production as part of the Rome Season and directed by Blanche McIntyre, an innovative audience research project will be conducted in collaboration with Ipsos MORI to monitor the emotional engagement of a theatre and cinema audience. With the aim of exploring two questions: Does Shakespeare still shock? And, 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?

To explore this the RSC will recruit a sample of participants who will wear a heart rate monitor on their wrist throughout their experience of watching the play.  There will be two groups, a sample of theatre audiences who will watch the show in Stratford-upon-Avon at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and a second group will watch the ‘Live from Stratford-upon-Avon’, broadcast of Titus Andronicus in a cinema when it is streamed live on the 9 August. The two groups will be demographical matched based on age, theatre experience and gender to achieve a comparable set of results.

As well as monitoring their heart rate as they watch Titus Andronicus, the participants will immediately after the show complete a series of short interviews, to explore the strength of reaction and engagement.

There has been previous research around the impact of cinema broadcasts, but this will be the very first time there will be direct measurement and comparison of the emotional experience of both theatre and cinema audiences for a Shakespeare play.

The results and findings from the project will be released in November 2017.

Titus Andronicus opens on the 4 July and runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until the 2 September, the production then transfers to the Barbican in London from the 7 December – 19 January. It is broadcast ‘Live from Stratford-upon-Avon’ to cinemas across the world on the 9 August.

Titus Andronicus is part of the RSC’s Rome Season, which also includes Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra and Coriolanus. The productions run in Stratford-upon-Avon before transferring to the Barbican from November 2017.

The author(s)

  • Richard Garnham Innovation Manager

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