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Two thirds of theatregoers do not read reviews – report

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Only around a third of audience members read reviews or media coverage of a show either before or after they have attended the performance, a new study has found.

Of the 36% who do read reviews, around 80% said they accurately represent the performance, the research added.

Meanwhile the survey found only around 3% of the 317 respondents use social media to discuss a performance after attending the theatre.

The majority (around 80%) of those who said they had discussed a show after going to the theatre said they did this face-to-face, rather than via the phone, email, Facebook or Twitter.

The report – called Critical Mass: Theatre Spectatorship and Value Attribution – found that audience members tend to value theatregoing for the discussions it stimulates with family and friends.

Around 90% of participants said they had spoken about a show with someone else after attending the theatre, including those who had seen the performance a year earlier.

Of the 87 participants who had seen a show two months previously, more than 94% said they had thought about it afterwards. Around 80% of the 87 theatregoers who had attended a performance a year previously also said they had recalled the show.

More than 80% of participants said they found shows related to contemporary events, with nearly 70% believing performances made a connection to their personal lives.

Theatregoers also believe that productions can be both entertaining and intellectually challenging when considering the value of a production, said the report.

The research found that spectators consider a combination of factors such as the performance’s liveness, thoughtfulness, and also artistic production elements such as the company, actors and design, when forming a judgement on its worth.

Written by the British Theatre Consortium – a collection of academics and creative including playwrights David Edgar and Dan Rebellato – the study focussed on 14 productions across three theatres. These included the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Candide, the Young Vic’s Happy Days and Abi Morgan’s Lovesong at Theatre Royal Plymouth.

In its summary, the report said:  “Our respondents use their experience of theatre as a way of building social networks and neighbourly connections and bonding families, as an opportunity to relieve the pressures of self-awareness and as a medium for exploring the meaning of behaviour.

“They also use them as a living mental map of their lives, through geographic, social, familial and chronological topographies.”

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