Exciting projects outside the Suitcase

The Suitcase often stumbles upon interesting and inspiring projects from other theatres or cultural institutions. We therefore thought it would be a good idea to share these projects in a new mini-series on the blog called ‘Exciting projects outside the Suitcase’. As always, we are very interested in hearing from you. If you have any recommendations for interesting projects, please leave a comment below.

Not surprisingly, we are particularly interested in projects working to generate or communicate knowledge about art, culture, audiences, and audience experiences.
The Royal Shakespeare Company in collaboration with the research organization Ipsos MORI are currently working on a project with these characteristics called ‘Project Titus’. They are exploring the difference between experiencing a live performance and watching a production on a cinema screen, and they do so by tracking the heart rates of two groups of audiences. The first group watches the production “Titus Andronicus” in the theatre, and the second group watches a live transmission on a screen in a cinema.

After the performance, the audience were interviewed about their experience and they answered specific questions on a mobile app.

The results are not ready yet. Becky Loftus (head of audience insight at The Royal Shakespeare Company) describes the immediate insights:

The results won’t be available for some time as there is a lot for the data scientists to explore. At first glance, some people’s heart rates seemed to rise in anticipation of something happening rather than the event itself. Some elements (such as a sudden loud gunshot) might cause one type of reaction due to physiological changes as adrenaline floods the body, but others were more drawn out and linked with the strength of empathy with a character, such as the scene when Titus sees his brutalised daughter for the first time. It all comes down to the fight or flight reaction we have and there is a lot of that in Titus. (Becky Loftus, 2017: “Project Titus: Measuring the Heart Rate of Audience Members at Shakespeare’s Bloodiest Play”).

It will be interesting to see what The Royal Shakespeare Company will learn from of the experiment. In the Suitcase we find this next phase particularly interesting and challenging. It is a difficult process to go from complex data to clear conclusions (without simplifying the insights too much), and further to identify what these conclusions and the new knowledge may mean for the way we think about and develop theatre and cinema. We will follow the development of the project.

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