Performance, Experience, Transformation: What do Spectators Value in Theatre?

Christopher Megson, Janelle Reinelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Downloads (Pure)


This article explores the findings of “Theatre Spectatorship and Value Attribution” (TSVA), a research project conducted by the British Theatre Consortium (BTC, a small think-tank of playwrights and theatre academics) in 2013–14. The project team developed partnerships with three theatres – the Young Vic, RSC, and Theatre Royal (Drum) in Plymouth – to investigate how spectators attribute value to the performances they see. Based on empirical research gathered through surveys but enhanced by additional data from interviews and creative workshops, TSVA revealed both the necessity and limitations of empirically based research methodologies. Quantitative research methods are helpful in the collation and mapping of demographic data on theatre audiences (age, gender, educational background, etc.); however, when research seeks to address processual activities rooted in phenomenological experience, qualitative method-ologies are especially useful. TSVA found strong evidence that spectators assign value to theatre as a result of the complex associations that emerge between the performance, their personal networks, and the larger public context; moreover, these values are liable to change over time. This article explores the methods, findings and implications of the TVSA project with reference to two production case studies at the Young Vic – Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days (staged in 2014) and David Greig’s The Events (2013).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-242
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Contemporary Drama in English
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

Cite this