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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0414  Friday, 28 February 2003

[1]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 16:33:03 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0399 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

[2]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 17:48:07 +0000
        Subj:   Accents unfathomable

[3]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 19:17:41 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0399 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

[4]     From:   K. V. Sproat <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 20:26:57 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0399 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

[5]     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 Feb 2003 07:00:01 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0379  Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 16:33:03 -0000
Subject: 14.0399 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0399 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

We have posted before on the use of accents but this thread reveals
something new - the proper English accent for performing Shakespeare.
We can, of course, discount the authentic accent as used by Shakespeare
himself and his fellow actors, as being quite unintelligible to modern
ears.  So we are left with the modern English accents of our world.  The
problem with the American or Australian accent is that it identifies
with a particular location.  It therefore becomes the "Australian
version" or the "Texas version" and so on.  The advantage with RP is
that it is a purely invented English accent being tied to no particular
location except England (only about 3% of English people speak it).  It
grew from the broadcasting tradition of the BBC so has many connections
to the stage.  It is slow, clear and pronounces all the consonants.  Its
great failing is that it is very often dull, sexless and soporific.  So
to my mind the question is quite open.  Any English accent can be used
so long as it is clear and executed with passion and commitment.

SAM SMALL
http://www.passioninpieces.co.uk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 17:48:07 +0000
Subject:        Accents unfathomable

"[...]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 university wits of Hillhead (Glasgow, Scotland) returned him (to the
astonishment of the UK) as their Member of Parliament when he
carpetbagged the seat. On the wall of the constituency's  most
prestigious restaurant ("The Ubiquitous Chip" - honest!) next morning
appeared the grafitto (Roy was a noted bon vivant) "WOY JENKINS IS A
RANKER".

Two Scottish Nationalists, Angus MacFlavius and Donald McMurellus, were
later put to death for the offence.

Best,
Graham Hall.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 19:17:41 -0000
Subject: 14.0399 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0399 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

Terence Hawkes <
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 > writes,

> 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.

*Please* -- not British, but English culture.  It was, if not better, at
least different in Scotland in the sixties.

In Glasgow in the sixties, accent displayed four things -- class,
education, district, and religious affiliation.  At the extreme (the
yin/wan distinction) it was even possible to tell which side of an
Easterhouse estate someone was raised in.

I'm not sure things have changed that much even today, alas.

(Incidentally, am I the only person who has his head done-in by how
Christopher Brookmyre seems to switch between Glasgow and Edinburgh
speech in his novels?)

Robin Hamilton

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           K. V. Sproat <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 20:26:57 EST
Subject: 14.0399 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0399 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

>. . . 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 . . .

I've often wondered why William F. Buckley, an American professional
pseudo-intellectual who may still be living, spoke/speaks a form of
English heard from no other human on either side of the Atlantic. His
language behavior gives new meaning to the term "idiolect."  Someone
must have frightened Buckley badly in his youth. Buckley is too old to
have had the benefit of a very great American who died yesterday, Fred
Rogers, who comforted millions of frightened children via TV.

K. V. Sproat

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Friday, 28 Feb 2003 07:00:01 EST
Subject: 14.0379  Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0379  Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

Having worked with amateur actors (many supremely gifted) for 30 years
in Newnan, GA, I had to face the Shakespeare-with-accent problem early
on.  Our decision was just to do the play.  I would sometimes clean up
the deepest of Southern drawls if it got in the way of the character
(from an audience standpoint), but we'd usually push the clowns as deep
as we could.  With basic training on how to make the sounds of the
language work for you as an actor, most of my crew could turn in
credible and sometimes thrilling performances.  (Of course, I'm
prejudiced in believing that we're blessed with a richness in vowels
here in the American south, like David Evett's friends in York.)

We never once considered using RP or even transatlantic.  Why would we?
The focus would have been on the success or failure of the actor to
"sound right," not the success or failure of the actor to be effective
with the character and with the play.

Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company
http://newnantheatre.com

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