How shocked are you? Audience checked for gory RSC Titus

“This production contains smoke effects, gunshots, sexual content, with violent and potentially distressing scenes”.

Does Shakespeare still have the power to shock?

The Royal Shakespeare Company has launched 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.

An innovative audience research project will be conducted to monitor the emotional engagement of a theatre and cinema audience when the RSC’s forthcoming production, part of the Rome Season, opens in Stratford upon-Avon tomorrow night.

It aims to explore 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?

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 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 August 9.

The two groups will be demographically 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.

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.

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

Titus Andronicus runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until the September 2, the production then transfers to the Barbican in London from December 7 – January 19.

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