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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0399  Thursday, 27 February 2003

[1]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Feb 2003 13:13:56 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 14.0379 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Feb 2003 10:50:28 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0379 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

[3]     From:   Russell MacKenzie Fehr <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Feb 2003 22:23:52 -0500
        Subj:   Re:14.0368 Shaw on Actors' Accents


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Feb 2003 13:13:56 -0500
Subject: Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        SHK 14.0379 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

'around the turn of C20, when the way you pronounced English might,
indeed, give fairly reliable clues to your social class'

I can assure David Evett that the practice of using accents as
indicators not just of regional provenance but of social class was
central to British culture well into the 1960s. Like most of my
generation, I was urged by insecure, braying school-teachers to despise
the way I spoke my native language. The saddest relics of this sort of
phonetic cleansing were probably the strangulated sounds that emanated
unstoppably from the mouth of the recently deceased Roy Jenkins,
latterly peer of the realm, President of the European Commission,
biographer of Churchill, and Chancellor of Oxford University.  Born into
a working-class family in South Wales, he ended up with an elegantly
lisping drawl and an agweeably cwafted 'Fwench' way with the /r/
phoneme. The satirical magazine 'Private Eye' had the last laugh,
printing a cartoon of his supposed gravestone, bearing the simple legend
'Roy Jenkins, W.I.P.'

T. Hawkes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Feb 2003 10:50:28 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 14.0379 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0379 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

David Evett in regards to Northern Broadsides:

>But most American auditors, and
>many British ones,
>would at least initially find it strange, maybe even
>inaccessible.  Does
>that make it wrong?

No, it does not make it wrong. Actually, as an American auditor and a
Californian one at that, I saw Northern Broadsides perform King John and
Merry Wives in 2001. I was never distracted or overly conscious of the
different pronunciations. I extremely enjoyed both productions. They
seemed to have fun with both plays and the pronunciation did not come
across as stuffy.  Not that I find other, more traditional
pronunciations stuffy, but I think that the concerted effort to ignore
an expected pronunciation and deliver in natural born accents liberated
the actors. Sometimes the effort to perform in an accent takes too much
of the actor's time in preparation. They must prepare two texts - the
words and then their pronunciation of them. It distances the two.
Northern Broadsides seemed to make the text their own rather than make
their performances "Shakespeare's intent". That makes performances
vital, immediate, and submerging - comedy or drama. That is what
performance should aim for.

One other thing: although Shaw has done some brilliant work, I also
think he is wrong about a great many things, not the least of which are
some of his views on Shakespeare and the performance of his work.  I
don't think that any company should be told that they can perform a work
only in one way or style or with a specific pronunciation. If a Japanese
company performed Shakespeare in English with their own particular
Japanese accents, are we to force them to speak RP? That would be silly.

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Russell MacKenzie Fehr <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Feb 2003 22:23:52 -0500
Subject:        Re:14.0368 Shaw on Actors' Accents

Based on what I've read, it appears that Shaw was a fan of Johnston
Forbes-Robertson, commenting on him as speaking in the way that people
should speak (read his Introduction to Pygmalion).

Does anyone know what he felt about Sir Beerholm Tree, who (in the
surviving recordings, at any rate) has a noticeable (Yorkshire? Welsh?)
accent?

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