Thanks to the ingenuity of English Touring Theatre, we will soon know the title of the most popular ever play in English. The mouth waters at the prospect.

In fact, a public vote of the kind being used to celebrate the company's 21st birthday will not come up with a perfect answer.

Inevitably, these surveys have a tendency to favour celebrities / sportsman / TV shows / movies / plays that are currently in the public eye. If during the voting process, you have had the misfortune to see your play underperformed for the last five years, the chances of winning are practically zero.

On the other hand, since Macbeth is to enjoy three London openings in two days during October, William Shakespeare must seriously fancy his chances of coming out on top.

The good news is that Artistic Director Rachel Tackley has undertaken to take the winner around the UK next year with every chance that some of the runners-up will also be in the repertoire.

This could be a mixed blessing, since the British public has a tendency to be fickle and, at times, unpredictable, while the larger the turnout, the more likely that populism will win out over artistic merit.

There must be every prospect that a play by Ray Cooney could beat Harold Pinter, Arthur Miller, Noël Coward or even dear old William Shakespeare, while John Godber or Sir Alan Ayckbourn might be hot favourites if the bookies decide to get involved.

The actors who form the venerable company must also be praying that they are not landed with spending a year touring something that they find see distasteful. Oh Calcutta! was a musical so probably doesn't qualify but The Romans in Britain might not be everybody's cup of tea, especially any actor who finds himself on the wrong end of a graphic homosexual act every night.

Others may not be up to playing farce, which requires a particular skill set, while, if they are really unlucky, most company members could end up unemployed, for example if a solo performance such as Krapp's Last Tape should strike lucky.

At the other end of the scale, ETT might be praying pretty hard that they do not have to take a massive cast up and down the country with all of the expense entailed, should the public select something like a monsterist classic, perhaps Richard Bean's England People Very Nice. Staying with Bean, it would also be unhelpful if they end up competing with the touring production of One Man, Two Guvnors.

This kind of exercise does get carried out on a fairly regular basis and it is not so long ago that the National Theatre carried out a similar survey.

In any event, this project has already engendered additional media interest in theatre and that has to be really good news for everybody involved in the business.

Full details about how to vote are available at