The playstation's the thing as RSC targets the young

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The Independent Online

By way of an encore to its£100m "theatre village" plans for Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company proudly presents ... a scheme for connecting with young people. Ticket-holdersat the RSC's new London venue, the Roundhouse, are to be photographed by cameras placed around the auditorium.

The aim of the exercise, which starts later this month and will continue on random nights thereafter, is to give the company a clearer profile of the age range of its audience.

Anyone alarmed by the prospect of being captured on film gyrating to the Bohemian dance rhythms of The Winter's Tale, which opened on the new stage last week, would do well to reserve their tickets for Shakespeare's birthday, 23 April.

On that day, rather than being photographed, audience members will be asked to fill in forms giving their names and birth dates. By way of incentive, all those who do so will be promised cards on their own birthdays.

The profiling scheme is only one strand of a wider RSC drive to engage with youth which will also see a raft of new merchandise joining the books and videos that have long been staples of its gift shops.

Internet screenings of Shakespeare plays and even RSC Playstation games are among the products being considered as part of a concerted bid to win cachet with the "post-MTV generation".

The RSC is also consulting focus groups of 21- to 30-year-olds in an effort to find out what they think of the company, and how it can make itself more appealing to them. The groups, primarily comprised of people who rarely go to the theatre, have been assembled by brand consultancy A Vision, whose previous clients have included Sony, Audi, Playstation and Disney.

Kate Horton, the RSC's marketing director, said current statistics suggested that half its regular audience members were 44 or older, while only four per cent were between 20 and 24.

"We can look at our databases, but most young people buy their tickets on the day, often just before shows, so they won't be on there," Ms Horton said, explaining the photography project. "The other thing we can do is look at past questionnaires, but the kind of person who fills in forms tends to be older.

"I know from my time at Birmingham Rep that these methods aren't accurate. I could see just by looking that the audience was 90 per cent black, but the questionnaires we got back suggested it was 90 per cent white."

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