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Diary: Study gives another reason to say I heart theatre

Scientists recently claimed that watching a West End theatre show can stimulate a person’s heart as much as half an hour of exercise [1].

The study by Joseph Devlin at University College London, in association with Encore Tickets, monitored heart rates and brain activity during a live performance of the musical Dreamgirls.

During the performance, the heart rates of audience members recorded a higher range than normal, beating at 50% to 70% of a person’s maximum rate for an average of 28 minutes.

Now bless their hearts – those same scientists are at it again. This time they are claiming that theatre audience members actually synchronise their heartbeats.

The study suggested that the thrill of the theatre caused audience members’ hearts to beat at the same time – even with complete strangers.

Researchers monitored audience members’ heart rates and skin responses at a live theatre performance of Dreamgirls. They found that as well as responding emotionally to the performance as individuals, the audience actually responded in unison through their heartbeats, with their pulses speeding up and slowing down at the same rate as each other.

The new research also showed couples and friends continue to react in sync during the interval of a show, and that this synchronisation can cause people to like each other more.

Devlin says: “Experiencing the live theatre performance was extraordinary enough to overcome group differences and produce a common physiological experience in the audience members.”

Sadly, Tabard doubts this will extend to audiences being more forgiving of their fellow theatregoers’ singing along, noisy food habits and mobile phone transgressions.

Send stories to tabard@thestage.co.uk [2]