Encountering Shakespeare elsewhere
: digital distribution, audience reception, and the changing value of Shakespeare in performance.

  • Rachael Nicholas

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Since the launch of National Theatre Live in 2009, digital distribution has made it possible for audiences to access theatre productions across a range of reception sites. Developing the critical conversation around theatre broadcasting, this thesis examines the reception of digitally distributed theatrical productions of Shakespeare at three sites of encounter: the cinema, the school, and online. Considering evidence gathered via audience research alongside critical scholarship from across academic disciplines, it provides new insight into where, how, and why twenty-first century audiences are experiencing, engaging with, and valuing Shakespeare in performance beyond the theatre auditorium. Chapter 1 draws on audience surveys undertaken at screenings of NT Live’s Macbeth (2018) at two different UK screening venues to explore how different venues determine the reception of cinema broadcasts. Chapter 2 examines the school as a site for encountering Shakespeare performance, basing its analysis on observations of two RSC Schools’ Broadcasts at two UK schools. Using the results of an online survey and interviews, Chapter 3 focuses on the reception of online broadcasts, considering how the fragmentation of reception across space and time influences the ways in which audiences participate with, and value, Shakespeare in performance.

    The way in which audiences experienced agency, hybridity, community and presence, as well as how they valued their encounters and Shakespeare, are explored as recurring themes across the thesis. I argue that experiences with digitally distributed theatre are multiple and diverse and are actively negotiated by audiences in relation to their specific contexts of reception. As well as illuminating how and why audiences participate in broadcasts, I argue that such experiences should be considered as encounters with theatre and suggest that broadcasts offer an opportunity to fundamentally reconsider what might ‘count’ as a theatrical encounter in the twenty-first century.
    Date of Award16 Dec 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    Sponsors Roehampton VC Scholarship
    SupervisorSusanne Greenhalgh (Supervisor) & Fiona Wilkie (Supervisor)


    • Shakespeare
    • performance
    • theatre reception
    • audience research
    • theatre broadcast
    • new cinema history
    • Royal Shakespeare Company
    • National Theatre
    • Online theatre
    • digital Shakespeare

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