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Monday, 23 April, 2001, 05:35 GMT 06:35 UK
Shakespeare 'as relevant' as soaps
A scene from the RSC's production of Henry IV
Henry IV: shades of Phil Mitchell Vs Lisa Shaw?
A poll commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company has found that EastEnders and Coronation Street are the 21st Century equivalents of Shakespearean dramas.

The RSC commissioned a survey from Mori to mark the culmination of This England: The Histories - a cycle of Shakespeare's plays about UK history that they are staging this year.

Lucy Benjamin and Steve McFadden
Lisa and Phil debate the issues of the day
Mori found that people feel Shakespeare's plays reflect on their time in much in the way TV soaps make important statements about their society.

"The poll proves what we already know from the box office - that these plays are as relevant and exciting today as they were 400 years ago," said the RSC's artistic director Adrian Noble.

The eight plays in the RSC's Histories series - Henry IV (part I and II), Henry V, Henry VI (Parts I, II and III), Richard II, Richard III - tackle issues like political sleaze, devolution and poll tax riots.

Unique thrill

Researchers asked the public to choose a modern day equivalent to these plays and Coronation Street and EastEnders came top of the list.

One third (33%) of those polled said EastEnders was the contemporary drama which most had something to say about today's society.

29% opted for Coronation Street.

Simon Gregson
Bloody revenge in Corrie
More than 40% of those polled said they felt Shakespeare's history plays were relevant today, though 16% disagreed with this.

The RSC are actively trying to increase that number - already a quarter of their audience is aged 19 and under, though that may be because many students are required to study Shakespeare at school.

But Noble is confident that they will be able to bring in a wide range of people into Shakespeare's work.

The fact that the season of Shakespeare's history plays at the Barbican in London is sold out is a testament to that.

"If we can turn people on to the unique thrill of seeing a performance on stage, then a Shakespeare performance will follow," said Noble.

See also:

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40 years on the Street
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