Theatre is a business as well as a craft. And surveys about theatre often have a business side to them. So a recent survey about how many Shakespeare quotations members of the general public can identify was conducted not by the Arts Council or a university, but by a business: the Thistle hotel group. Yet despite the fact that hotels have an interest in tourism, and therefore in how many people visit London theatres, some of the results of this recent survey are quite interesting. Only about 16% of Brits can identify well-known Shakespeare quotes. But more than double that amount (34%) are able to identify songs from mega-hit musicals. Similarly, of the people surveyed, just over a half (53%) have ever seen a Shakespeare play, and 38% favor musicals compared to only 7% saying Shakespeare plays are on their good night out wish list. Top choices are The Lion King, Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables; top bard play is Romeo and Juliet. Surprisingly, only 52% could identify Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” and only 44% “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”; “If music be the food of love, play on” scored a mere 16% in the recognition ratings. By contrast, twice as many people were able to correctly match six lyrics from musicals and about 34% were able to identify them all correctly. Top score (64%) was “The winner takes it all” from Mamma Mia! although only 34% identified “It’s time to try defying gravity, I think I’ll try defying gravity” (Wicked) and “I dreamed a dream in time gone by” (Les Mis). Is this a good argument for more arts education in schools? To cover musicals as well as Shakespeare.
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