Audience response is a slippery and often elusive object of study. The individual spectator’s experience of an audience’s group response is inevitably highly subjective: attempts to describe that response, let alone analyse it, are heavily influenced by the spectator’s own context. On the very simplest level, the audience response in one section of the theatre building might be very different from the reactions evident only a few metres away; on a broader level, the social and cultural frames of reference within which a spectator makes sense of his or her neighbour’s reactions might be very different from those of the neighbours themselves. In Chapter 1, I made a case study of the audiences of a particular Shakespearean production using a number of different methodological approaches, but the analysis was all my own: the resulting narrative was thus the product of my own cultural priorities and reference points. What might somebody else have made of the same data? This question was the impetus for a second experiment in accounting for audience response, in which I invited a colleague to accompany me to another Shakespearean production. Our brief was simple: each of us would independently write an account of the production and its reception, and we would use these accounts to initiate a collaborative debate between us.
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