Is live theatre more shocking than filmed theatre? We are carrying out an audience research project to monitor emotional response to Titus Andronicus on stage and on screen.

Titus Andronicus is renowned for being Shakespeare’s 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 our new production, we’re working with Ipsos MORI on research to monitor the emotional engagement of a theatre and cinema audience.

We’ve recruited two groups of people to wear heart rate monitors on their wrists whilst watching the play. One group was to watch the show in Stratford-upon-Avon at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, whilst the second group was to watch the live broadcast of Titus Andronicus in a cinema on 9 August. The two groups have been demographically matched based on age, theatre experience and gender to achieve a comparable set of results.

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

two men in bright shirts - one has the other in a headlock
Sean Hart as Demetrius and Luke MacGregor as Chiron in Titus Andronicus, directed by Blanche McIntyre.
Photo by Helen Maybanks © RSC Browse and license our images

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

We will release the results and findings from the project in November 2017. Read a blog about Project Titus: Measuring the Heart Rate of Audience Members at Shakespeare’s Bloodiest Play.


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