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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0423  Thursday, 6 March 2003

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 Feb 2003 16:52:33 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0414 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

[2]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 Feb 2003 18:37:48 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0414 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

[3]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 Feb 2003 19:43:58 +0000
        Subj:   Small talk

[4]     From:   Janet Costa <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 Feb 2003 17:19:36 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0414 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Friday, 28 Feb 2003 16:52:33 -0000
Subject: 14.0414 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0414 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

>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.

I am not sure that most British people would agree that RP was
regionless in this way.  Whether mistakenly or not, I - as a
representative English person -think that pure RP's origins are
effectively London-based, something emphasised by its beginnings in the
BBC (which has its headquarters in London, from where it broadcasts most
of the national programmes, although there are regional centres for
local radio and TV; at the time that RP was created just about all BBC
programming came directly from London).  If I hear a Welshman, a
Scotsman, or an Irishman, or indeed somebody from the North of England,
speaking pure RP then I consider them to have drowned their local
accent.

My own local accent, of course, is quite a long way from RP, being a
vaguely Middle Class South-Eastern accent, but with a certain helping of
my local Chathamese (Chatham became a national laughingstock a couple of
years ago after a website gained huge publicity for declaring that
Chatham girls had replaced Essex girls as the lowest of the low
[tasteless, sexually available, no fashion sense etc.] - fortunately the
attack was not extended to Chatham boys, so I feel untouched).  I am
sure many people in London speak with an accent not very much different
from mine, but in my mind - rightly or wrongly - it is among the more
affected residents of London that RP seems really to be at home.

Thomas Larque.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 28 Feb 2003 18:37:48 -0000
Subject: 14.0414 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0414 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

Dale Lyles reports,

>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.

Have I misunderstood, or are you saying that deep South is an
appropriate accent for clowns? Is this an American version of the
British 'West Country = foolish' stereotype?

If it is, a recently broadcast interview of Leonardo De Caprio about his
preparation to play Frank Abagnale in the film Catch Me if You Can
undermines it. De Caprio reports that he asked if Abagnale used any kind
of accent to fool people into thinking he was an airline pilot, and the
latter said he didn't. Unconvinced, De Caprio had Abagnale pick up a
telephone and improvise the kind of conversation he would have to
convince someone that he was a pilot who'd lost his uniform. De Caprio
reports that Abagnale slipped into a strong Southern drawl, apparently
without realizing it. Probing further into the context of Abagnale's
activities in the late 1960s, De Caprio concluded that NASA's launches
from Florida gave a new significance to the Southern drawl, associating
it with high technology and youthful endeavour.

Gabriel Egan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Friday, 28 Feb 2003 19:43:58 +0000
Subject:        Small talk

Sam Small (27 Feb) writing about RP :

"It grew from the broadcasting tradition of the BBC".

A continuity announcer responds:

No it didn't (as many posters pointed out during the previous run on
accents). If he persists in hawking this canard his nose will grow so
long he won't be able to journey through revolving doors anymore without
making his eyes water.

Aunty Beeb's ways grew out of RP ek tew ellie.

end nowah thee sheeping fowahcahrst.........

Goodnight children everywhere.

Uncle Graham

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Janet Costa <
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Date:           Friday, 28 Feb 2003 17:19:36 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 14.0414 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0414 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

Dale Lyles writes: 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.

Ay, there's the rub...

Just what exactly is "sounds right?" In the "My Fair Lady" adaptation of
Shaw, I cringed the first time I heard, "Why can't the English teach
their children how to speak?"

I too am a director, and part of my function is to help the actor find
the emotional and psychological truth of the character. I'm happy when I
get a performance in which everything gels and the cast is happy.

I gave up worrying about "sounds right" after hearing a play done in
what I think is the glorious Yorkshire accent.

Janet

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