Shakespeare Still Cool Says U.K. Poll

News   Shakespeare Still Cool Says U.K. Poll

In a month when the Queen has been reclassified as Cool (presumably making her the real Cool Britannia), another old-fashioned British institution has also had a vote of confidence from the young.

According to a MORI poll commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, a third of young people (aged 15 to 35) think Shakespeare remains an inspiration — his plays are as relevant in the Internet age as they were at the time of the Inquisition.

In a result that surely boosted the morale of the company (and of theatre in general), the survey also disproves the idea that theatre is very much a minority activity. Between a quarter and a third of those questioned had seen a play within the last year, and only one percent thought that theatre was "stuffy."

Cinema was the most popular recreation (79%), with clubbing (49%) and sport (45%) as runners-up. This means that, technically, both sport and clubbing are minority interests, a fact that theatre companies could well quote when next defending theatre as a minority (and therefore, in some people's eyes, elitist) activity. Indeed, the 28% who had been to see a play outnumbered the 25% who had been to a pop concert.

While Shakespeare's profile has been kept alive on cinema screens thanks to films like "Shakespeare in Love" and Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo and Juliet," as well as less well-known but nonetheless fascinating films like a modern (Manhattan) version of "Hamlet" starring Ethan Hawke, young audiences continue to go to Shakespearean performances in the theatre.

This MORI poll confirms what regular theatregoers already knew — that plenty of young people can be seen on any given night at London and regional theatres, and, providing the production is a good one, they are as happy to see a Shakespeare play as any other age group.

—By Paul Webb Theatrenow