All The Money in The World but Less For Women


When it emerged that Michelle Williams was paid $80 a day to do the re-shoots on All the Money in the World and Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million it was astounding.  Even more so because they both share the same agent William Morris Endeavor – what were they thinking?  Is it acceptable that women will take less than their male counterparts?  Last year research done on women’s salaries revealed that women are less willing to ask for a pay rise and are less willing  to negotiate on salary than men.   There used to be a tradition that  women were the chief carers in the family and therefore many women thought they would jeopardise their position at work by asking for more money, given that they had paid leave with a new baby.  It left a residue of perhaps acceptance, perhaps fear that they would not be looked upon as worthy for larger salaries.  During the past few years,  I’ve carried in my work case, The Amazing Secrets of How to Negotiate Your Salary by Derek Arden, who (I’m so grateful) gave me a signed copy when we worked together.   It has helped many of my female clients  – and male clients – because the points are easy to make and it’s for everyone, it’s generic.
The good news from All The Money in the World is that Mark Wahlberg gave his $1.5 million to the charity Time’s Up and that William Morris Endeavor gave $500,00 on behalf of Michelle Williams – $1 million short of Mark Wahlberg’s donation but things are moving on….

All The Money in the World with Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg


Alleviating Tension in the Voice


All voice coaches seek to alleviate any stress lodged in muscles that can cause tension in the voice.

Simple adjustments to posture brought about by alignment and re-enforced with daily exercises with eyeline markers and pelvis/shoulder blades against the wall – help to release back, knee, calf, ankle, shoulder and hand tension.  Tongue, jaw and neck tension involving flexibility of the tissues and muscles around the larynx, pharynx, oral and nasal cavities need more extended hands on care with individually prescribed exercise.  Key to the relaxation of these areas is the hyoid bone.  Located above the larynx and below the base of tongue, the hyoid bone has muscular and ligament attachments connecting the shoulders, jaw, ribcage, tongue, palate and larynx.  Exercises that involve for instance, lifting the top jaw have an immediate impact on releasing the area between the shoulder blades.  If you’d like to do these exercises – join up for our newsletter and we’ll let you know when we’re putting the exercises online.

Hyoid bone



Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle


A brave and challenging play.  The story is implausible and therefore at the same time lifelike.  This older, solitary man who’s lived all his regimented life in London as a butcher, is hit on by a young, vibrant, slightly wired woman.  It is touching and as they talk, the rhythm of the play, brought out so well by the director Marianne Elliott,  allows their characters to unfold.  She does have further desires apart from his company and love-making and these all come out.  Deep down the play touches on our desire for certainty.  The desire to be loved absolutely for ourselves is a daunting desire.  Even for lifelong partners there is sometimes an uncertainty about what their partner really thinks and feels.   We all change, we all die.  It is only in the present that we can be certain.  The ultimate lines of the play are beautiful and encompass the comforting certainty of giving and accepting.  Throughout the play the voices of Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham bring reality to the piece.  Penny Dyer, the Dialect Coach has, as usual done a wonderful job.  The set is stunning, the colours changing in line with the emotional levels of the characters.  Some plays are like pictures and they reveal to us more than what we can immediately comprehend or be certain of.

The Uncertainty Principle
Wyndhams Theatre London




Women Speaking Out on Harvey Weinstein


In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein exposure as a sexual predator abusing his power as a film producer, there have been a lot of women, including Emma Thompson saying that men should stop using women as sexual objects.  This is and always has been true of course, but a lot of my male friends are upset that they are now being viewed as predators rather than just being genuinely interested in people.
I would say that, at a guess, actors now coming into the business have an 85%+ chance of not encountering sexual abuse.  This is mainly because of th action of other women in the business.  Angelina Jolie said that when she was first starting out Harvey Weinstein tried to seduce her in a hotel room and she walked out.  She said she warned other women about Harvey Weinstein.  Other actresses have had similar experiences – including me and been warned of the danger by other women.  As Madeleine Albright said – there is a special place in hell for women who pull up the drawbridge after them – and this includes – as we’re now experiencing, women who have kept this secret and allowed a sexual predator to continue to abuse and debase women.

Nicholas Hytner in Conversation with Rachel Cooke


Saw and Heard Nicholas Hytner in conversation with Rachel Cooke to promote his book Balancing Acts at the Wimbledon BookFest.  He was entertaining and succinct.  You wonder if his clarity and single mindedness had come about after having so much thrown at him during his 12 years as Artistic Director of the National Theatre.  He was both fortunate and astute in choosing the people he worked with.  He had two great associate directors, Marianne Elliot and the late Howard Davis and a wonderful producer Nick Star, who he’s now working with at The Bridge Theatre.  Among the achievements he’s most proud of are originating the streaming of live performances into cinemas the successes of War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and two Men and a Guvnor.   When rehearsing One Man, Two Guvnors there was something not quite right and they invited an audience of school children to a rehearsal.  James Corden was being pretty much his television personality – witty and bright and although the school children responded to him and the play they didn’t find it very funny.   James Corden’s character was based on a Commedia dell’ Arte character from Richard Bean’s adaptation of A Servant of Two Masters (Italian: Il servitore di due padroni), a 1743 Commedia dell’arte style comedy play by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. The character is stupid and devious.  James Corden delivered the performance that made the play so funny, once he understood this.  Comedy is the most difficult to get right and rehearse Nicholas Hytner said.  It’s practise, practise and timing with none of the enriching, enlightening moments that can happen with say Shakespeare or Shaw.  Nicolas Hytner is optimistic about live theatre with the number of talented playwrights emerging such as Lucy Kirkwood.
Young Marx by Richard Bean with Rory Kinnear is Nicholas Hytner’s next directing project at the new The Bridge Theatre.  It is the first theatre to be built in London for many years and Nicolas Hytner and Nick Star are responsible for the project.   The Bridge Theatre is by the Tower of London and the nearest station is London Bridge.  Young Marx opens on 18th October and is followed by a production of Julius Caesar with Ben Whishaw.  Probably a good idea to book early.
Nicolas Hytners’s book Balancing Acts is on sale now and would make a great Christmas present for anyone who is curious about The National Theatre and life in general.

Balancing Acts by Nicholas Hytner


The Creative Writing Voice of Kazuo Ishiguro


Wonderful news about Kazuo Ishiguro being selected for the Nobel prize for literature.   A graduate of the creative writing course at the University of East Anglia, started and led by the great teacher and writer Malcolm Bradbury.  All Ishiguro’s books read extremely well out loud.  It’s as if he has planted the words in a rhythmic conspiracy to hold your heart just far enough away from the raw emotions of the narrator.  When We Were Orphans, is my favourite Kazuo Ishiguro book.  If you can only read some of it out loud, it gives you a deeper sense of being inside the setting of the book.  The lingering, bitter sweet sensation,  which is the end result of coming through a totally absorbing and often traumatic  story, is enough.   Ishiguro’s writing is sometimes about characters finding themselves in circumstances beyond their control, often due to political upheaval.  I suppose then that Kazuo Ishiguro has enough material now to last him a lifetime.

Kazuo Ishiguro Nobel Prize Winner for Literature

The Crystals are Clear about English Accents


“You Say Potato – The Story of English Accents”  by Ben Crystal and  David Crystal

I first met David Crystal at the start up of the Globe Theatre.   There were fascinating talks on how Shakespeare wrote his work and how the actors would sometimes go on with the just written script in their hand – (not too disimilar from today, when actors sometimes learn script changes  while in make up).   Thanks to David Crystal we would hear how the words sounded in Shakespeare’s time.
I met his son Ben Crystal when I was doing phonetics at UCL.  ‘You Say Potato’  is never boring, an endlessly fascinating book and never pompous and often funny.
Ben Crystal describes his accent as ‘modified RP,  a slightly rougher version of Received Pronunciation.” This is becoming the norm in our standard English speech.  He writes of influences on his speech:
“I was born in Ascot, raised near Reading and grew up in North Wales.  I went to university in Lancaster and I also have their short ‘a’ in my accent….After travelling in the States, I often tell my dawg to seddle down while I boil the keddle.”
If you want to take the mystique out of English accents, understand the difference between accents and dialects and want to understand a bit more about your unique way of talking in English, then this is the book for you.  No way of talking is perfect, but you are perfect in the way you talk.  Click below for details on You Say Potato.

Ben and David Crystal


Action or Talk – The Bigger Questions


Eddie Izzard spoke about his role in the new Victoria and Abdul film in the Guardian.  Eddie’s zest and curiosity of life are revealed.  He dares to ask the bigger questions “What made us who we are?”  “What brought us to here?”  Click on the image below for a trailer of Victoria and Abdul

Eddie Izzard

Visiting Culloden recently and walking around the scene of the bloody 1746 battle between the 25 year old Prince Charlie supporters and the government supporters led by the 25 year old Duke of Cumberland, it’s tempting to ask the same questions.  Some people make sense of life by constantly facing new challenges and always being outside the zone of “the expected ” as with Eddie Izzard.   Others like the author and journalist Robert McCrum explore the incidents of their lives and make sense of them through words.

Robert McCrum had a stroke when he was a young man, just brimming with life and making his name. Since then he’s been fascinated by neuroscience and the brain.  “It’s an enthralling and mysterious subject and one that encourages a literary response because it raises very big existential questions about the nature of thought.
We’re storytelling people, aren’t we?  We default to that mode when we’re making sense of otherwise chaotic data.  A good actor can still a room of boisterous kids because they’ll be gripped by the music of the words.  Words evoke memories and thoughts, put us in touch with ourselves. And that’s consoling.”
Robert McCrum the Writer of The Story of English



Wired – A Dramatic Voice from the Army


“We want empathy not sympathy, I love my job”.   This was a statement said by a major during a question and answer session after the play ‘Wired’ was shown as part of Army@TheFringe.  When you think about it, it’s a very brave step on the part of the army to open its doors to the Arts, Comedy, Theatre crowd.  More and more though, the army has realised the need for media involvement, especially social media involvement.
In ‘Strike’ a Drama series based on the novel by Robert Galbraith. Cormoran Strike, an injured war veteran turned PI, investigates.  In one scene Robin Ellacott played by Holliday Grainger  tells her boyfriend that her new boss, the detective Cormoran Strike, lost part of his leg while he was fighting in Iraq.  Her boyfriend’s reply is off hand and scathing, as if Cormoran deserved the injury fighting in a war that no one supported.  Of course he’s just jealous, but many people share similar thoughts.
‘Wired’ is about a young girl joining the army, getting trained up and being sent  to Afghanistan, where during one posting, while  she is checking people and  is suspicious of someone wearing a burqa, she reacts too late and  her best friend is killed by a bomb.  She subsequently goes into meltdown suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is – all over again – torn apart by the memory of her father’s suicide when she was a young girl.  The award winning playwright Lesley Wilson has a background in mental health and brilliantly describes the effects of a soldier being  pumped with adrenaline while on patrol in a war zone. The director Jordon Blackwood stages ‘Wired’ as individual monologues with physical inter-action.   The young soldier Joanna, played by Jasmine Main is excellent and there’s great support particularly from Una McDade who carries the main narrative of the play.
In the end Joanna recovers and chooses to go back to her army job.  Like the major said, there is empathy and support within the army for all who choose to join – and many are from backgrounds that ironically make them vulnerable.
Whatever your views on war – this is a powerful play.

Joanna played by Jasmine Main


The Whip Hand at the Traverse, Edinburgh Festival


Whip Hand has a  theme that’s come through a lot this year at Edinburgh.  How our past deeds – good, bad or indifferent have affected where we are now.  This play explores our feelings of guilt and how we can manipulate and be manipulated by them.

It’s  Dougie’s 50 th birthday and he says that he’s been contacted by a solicitor.  His whole demeanour is alive and excited and you can tell that this is not his usual self by the attitude of his ex-wife and her new husband who are throwing the birthday party for him in their comfortable expensively furnished home.  We at first think that Dougie’s come into money that will take him from sleeping at his mum’s house into an income bracket on a par with his ex and her new husband.  Not so.  The figure is £25,000 and he’s being asked to pay this amount to the ancestors of the slaves that his great, great, great grandfather Saracen Bell kept on his plantation in the West Indies.  Backing up Dougie’s story is his nephew Aaron who lives at his mum’s house with him.  He is the son of  Dougie’s sister and (now disappeared) husband, a person of colour.
Arlene, Dougie’s ex-wife thinks he wants to borrow the money from her and her  new husband (again), but Dougie already knows that they’ve run out of cash and are in debt.  No, he wants to take the £25,000 fund put aside for Molly, his bright, young daughter for when she starts university in a month’s time.  Douglas Maxwell the writer  turns  the whole audience against Dougie, this hate filled man.  It doesn’t matter to Dougie when  Aaron, his  nephew  reveals that the solicitor and the Saracen Bell website is a scam.  He still wants the money put aside for Molly.  Before the climax of the play Dougie succeeds in dealing body blows to all the characters in the play, in particular to Aaron.
So it’s a great story with a terrible message that we are all victims and that vulnerable people of colour are still treated badly.  There are some wonderful scenes where individual actors are able to truly shine, in particular Michael Abubakar who plays Aaron.  The assurance of Richard Conlon who plays Lorenzo is there from the start but it takes the other actors time.  This may be a director’s error.  We cannot see the difference between a character who is unsure and an actor who’s unsure unless the direction is tight.  The Whip Hand is on at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre from September 5th to September 16th.  Book tickets by clicking on the picture below.

The Whip Hand by Douglas Maxwell

The Voice, Speech and Communication Specialists