Accent Control


 In Tinuke Craig’s great production of August Wilson’s classic play, Jitney at the Old Vic earlier this year, the script is written in an American dialect with slang and idioms.  The play is about a group of Pittsburgh taxi drivers.  The detail of the dialogue may be lost sometimes, but the impact and overall sense is massive.  One of the cab drivers eventries to adjust his accent to impress a potential ride.  The Old Vic is a large theatre compared to Leeds Playhouse & the cast had to adjust to the space in the previews, which perhaps accounts for some of the feedback saying it sounded muffled.  The impact of the whole play was improved by the director’s choices.   It’s the director’s decision of when to use an accent to denote the accent and when to make it real. 
Voice coaches are often consulted about scripts and edits, whether it’s from individual actors or the theatre director or assistant theatre director and there is a sense of working together.  A voice coach
can make a big contribution to the overall production success.

Sule Rimi as Turnbo in Jitney

Films need to be sold on the market place and I have been given notes by producers to ask actors to make sure their accent is easily understood for a UK and an international English speaking audience.   Dubbing is now so good that it poses no problems to dub into different languages.   
Hampstead Theatre put on a play called Lotus Beauty by Satinder Choan, earlier this year.  The accents and dialects were good, although some members of the audience found it hard to follow the storyline.   One of the characters had recently arrived in Southall and was understood, more by their gestures than their speech

Lotus Beauty

In the TV murder drama, Sherwood by James Graham.  The dialogue is comfortably colloquial and some of the accents more Nottingham that others, but this is in line with the characters’ backgrounds.  The accents around the mining districts of Nottingham, especially around Hucknall are very strong and hard to understand, even for people just outside the area.  In Sherwood, the characters are all played by really good actors, Adheel Akhtar, Lesley Manville, David Morrissey among them, and the drama unfolds without anything jarring on our senses.  Some locals took afront at Nottingham Forest being called Notts Forest, which never happens, but that’s a detail and I’m looking forward to the next series.

Lesley Manville as Julie Jackson in Sherwood

Communication Professionals

IABC World Conference June 26th to 29th

It’s been a huge source of job satisfaction for me when clients who’ve previously faced huge difficulties with communication, have reached out and into themselves turning it around and becoming Communication Professionals themselves.

To many, communications is what they rely on other people for.  They put all their enthusiasm and concentration into their work and want to be left in peace to get on with it.  They are fully aware of all that they need to know about the job from their contract and they get the gossip and the social side from others they work with.
Problems that I’ve seen clients face, arise from their inability to do their work in an efficient way because of out of date or problematic software or from the inability of a team member or manager to give them the data that they need to complete their work schedules. 
This happens across plus English and English English speakers.  Their frustration is huge and yet they are unwilling to express their needs and concerns because they are not in that ‘communication’ mold.  In some cases they are so bright that they are afraid that they will appear arrogant and therefore be sidelined.
I’ve found that their communication improves along with their learning vocal communication skills.
Once we establish that they are in touch with their own communication instinct and that is sound, we can move on to how best to get their requests heard and answered in a way which will enhance their communication skills with others.
In the cases when I’ve coached them on the interview to get the job it’s a reminder that reality is in doing the job.

When it Comes to Work, We take the Work


The Advertising Standards Authority has taken action against Innocent drinks, Oatly and Aqua Pura so far this year, for not being able to substantiate their claims and Greenwashing.   Did everyone get paid? Certainly, any work by actors and voiceovers would be if they were covered by an Equity contract and I would think everyone involved would be covered by a contract. I don’t know what happens about payment when a company has already booked screen time or booked space.
We all need to work and a big company name is always good for the money and can lead to more work.  Most companies with major product names are working hard to improve their productivity to comply with environmental issues but their main focus is on worldwide sales.  Is there ever going to be a time when we don’t take the work? I don’t mean because we get offered more money, but because it means working on something we don’t believe in.  You can guide your own career and in some respects this means you attract the work you want to do, but if you are focussed on big earnings, then you may find yourself working in a situation that benefits mainly the already very rich. However, if they pay out millions to charities then it’s easier to take. I have worked with a green bank and they pay their people very well and from what I could see, their investments were well researched.   What would you do at the moment, if your regular source of income comes from Russia? Spare a thought here for the many interpreters, movement teachers and project managers, whose regular source of income is Russia.

When it comes to work we take the work

Accents are a Gift to Good Actors


Why are we so sensitive about accents in films?  Is it because some film critics pounce on anything that they can be critical about?  Well, they do watch a lot of films and while that would be heaven for me – I’m not a film critic.  Abbie Cornish was part of an ensemble acting award as Willoughby’s wife Anne in Three Billboards, yet she came under fire for her accent.  Dugh!  She was an integral part of McDonagh’s amazing film. Now Julia Garner is being criticized in some quarters for her accent in Inventing Anna.  I think she uses the accent beautifully. She plays the part of the young  Anna Delvey, who wants her dreams to come true and enters into a charade to make it happen. 
The successful accent is when the ‘melody’ of the character’s mother tongue is transposed into the English English or American English.  The real Anna Delvey spent a lot of time perfecting her American accent but her German and Russian would have come through sometimes in the ‘melody’ or rhythm and intonation.  She must have learned how to use this to her advantage in her dealings with powerful people and this is exactly what Julia Garner does.  It’s great to see Garner as Anna using thin-lipped altercations and Russian consonants when she’s feeling cornered.  Inventing Anna is a fascinating story and great to watch and to think that Garner was filming Ozark as Ruth Langmore at the same time.  Wow!  But she did spend 6 months working on the Ozark accent.  To a good actor, an accent is a gift.

Exclamations of Joy and Delight, Inspired by Chekov, For You in 2022

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Exclamarion-mark.jpg

Over the holidays I go to read a few text books. I really like Lynne Truss’s book: Eats Shoots and Leaves. It’s not only a great reference book for punctuation, but it’s also a valuable one for fun stories and historical anecdotes. Around the 15th century punctuation changed from informing the speaker to inforning the reader. Actors, speakers and translators/interpreters, develop their own system of punctuation, to guide their spoken words, while still honouring the written punctuation.
Chekov, was assiduous in his punctuation, something that must be gratifying for his translators. He wrote “The Exclamation Mark” a short Christmas story about Perekladin, a man who is proud in the extreme about his meticulous punctuation.  Perakladin is very sensitive about his lack of a university education, which he feels, makes him inferior in his colleagues’ eyes. That night, he goes to sleep and dreams of all the punctuation marks that he’s used over the years, and they dance before his eyes.  He wakes up in a sweat when he realizes that the exclamation mark is the only one he hasn’t used.   In all the years that he’s been writing and working, he’s never used an exclamation mark. 

The Life Lesson from Chekov’s short story;  is not to worry about what people say.  In a world where people’s worth is measured by many kinds of status and prestige, you will waste a lot of energy in trying to compete and trying to belong.   The only area you can succeed in, is being you at your happiest, best and most fulfilled.  Voice coaching is another way to gain confidence in yourself and your values, your voice and your self-belief.  For forty years Perekladin the protagonist in Chekov’s short story, “The Exclamation Mark”, slaved away as an assistant, believing that his lack of a university education made him inferior to his peers.  He was liberated by realizing he was immensely good at what he did and deserved salutations and exclamation marks.

Chekov as a Young Man

I wish you a Happy New Year and Hope that your 2022 is full of exclamation marks denoting joy and delight.

The Human Voice, a Film by Pedro Almodóva

Tilda Swinton in the Human Voice

The Human Voice is Almodóva’s  first film in English.   Inspired by Jean Cocteau and Roberto Rossellini, it is visually surrreal and audibly very real.   Almodóva’s attention to detail is masterful and brings us into this magic area of suspended reality.  What is and what isn’t real?
It seems that the constraints brought about by the Covid induced time frame, have released many ideas from his past films, which are condensed into a story of a woman who has been left by the man she loves, and who is attempting to live through it.  The Human Voice, starring Tilda Swinton is  Almodóva’s  first film in English.  In a Mark Kermode led discussion afterwards, it was interesting to hear how Almodóva directed Tilda Swinton –  word by word – as he has directed all actors in his previous films.   He spoke the words in Spanish to Tilda Swinton so that she could hear and feel the meaning (intonation) behind them – and the results in English satisfied him.  You don’t have to speak a language in order to hear the meaning behind the words and Tilda Swinton doesn’t speak Spanish, but if you see this film, you will understand what a vocal artist she truly is.   Almodóva and Swinton both agree that they communicate and share the language of cinematography.  It is a wonderful 30 minutes and the sensation I felt at the end was one of resolution and completion. The Production designer Antxon Gómez and costume designer Sonia Grande make the set within a set spectacular in its design, allowing the colours, accessories and furnishings to be part of the cast along with Dash the dog – another great actor.
Frances Parkes

Voice for Healing Mental and Physical Pain


Roy Hart

Earlier this year I had a trauma that left me with severe pain in my muscles and joints.  Pain killers didn’t help much and  I had to surrender to having constant pain. I just hoped and prayed that it would not stay. Three things brought me through to now where I am almost pain-free, healthier and energised.

One was using my voice. I’d learned about the work of legendary voice coach, Alfred Wolfsohn early on when I first came to London.  An extraordinary man who believed that extending the range of notes in your voice and volume in your voice, had a healing effect on your mind and body.  When he died in 1962 he passed on the baton to Roy Hart, who continued to practice his vocal technique in the Roy Hart theatre company in  Malérargues, , France. Wolfsohn said that “Everyone has the same possibilities to sing with a five to six octave range”.  Think Prince and Bjork and you get the picture.   Wolfson didn’t believe in just random shouting or yelling, he wanted the sound to be focussed on different notes.
So I decided I would let rip with a few very loud and probably very discordant notes.  But where to go?  I’ve done big voice work before in squash courts, but my local one is closed for lockdown.  I could go out on to the Common but there are so many people out there now that it looks like a Lowry.  It would be impossible in my lat as I would have my neighbours thinking I was under attack and sending for the police.  I would try inside my car – and this worked.  The mental and physical release was almost instantaneous.  I even found that I could use different notes to pinpoint the pain in different parts of my body.  I found myself laughing.  When I could drive again, I continued to let rip with a few very loud notes – I knew no one could hear me but I did get a few smiles from people, which helped a lot.
I also practised meditation as taught to me by The Venerable Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso.  It is allowing you to focus on the pain and gradually, with the rise and fall of your stomach, let the pain pass from your conscious mind.  At the beginning of meditation I let thoughts disappear to the left or right (in my mind’s eye) and I did the same when the pain began to diminish. 
Undoubtedly voice work has helped clients and me cope during the lock downs.  Even when I felt weak and low, I knew there were plenty of souls who would not come out of this lockdown and the sheer size of the Covid pandemic diminished my pain.  My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and to those who work on the front line of Covid sufferers at the NHS.  They will need a lot of help and support to recover from what they have been through over these last two years.


Wonderful Women – Choose to Challenge – Women’s’ International Day 2021


A few years back a wonderful woman, originally from Swansea, then living in Wimbledon village, generously gave me a recording of her still rich Swansea accent for my work accent library.  She was, at the time, selling what she described as the cheapest house in Wimbledon village – 1.5 million.  She and her husband had put out trestle tables by the front door and were selling off the contents of the house to passersby, which is how I came to meet her.   When we got chatting, she took me around the house which had a couple of dogs and cats and a rabbit or two hopping around.  Her life and the life of her husband was devoted to animals and rescuing them from laboratories and vivisection.  She and her husband had come from Swansea to live in Wimbledon where they both worked as nurses in Atkinson Morley hospital.  They scraped together enough for a mortgage on a first house, rented out all the rooms and slept in the kitchen.  Gradually they were able to buy the house in Wimbledon village, which they were now selling.  The profit on the sale would go to organizations against Vivisection and experiments on animals.   My lovely cat Pru went missing in Beeston, near to the laboratories at Nottingham University and at the time there were lots cats that went missing – as reported in the Evening Post.  I hated the thought that Pru had been kidnapped for experiments – wouldn’t any pet owner?   How can we avoid epidemics like Coronavirus until we stop abusing animals in general and using them in laboratories in particular?   I support and celebrate you lady from Swansea and remember you on this Women’s Day 2021.

International Women's Day 2021: Quotes, Wishes, Greetings, HD Images  WhatsApp Messages & Facebook Statuses | Books News – India TV

The Liar is no Whit Better than the Thief

Poll: More pick Trump over Joe Biden to win presidential debates

In the Penguin Book of Modern Speeches, there is a speech given by Donald Trump in 2017 to Congress, after his first tumultuous 5 weeks in office.  In this speech entitled: A New Chapter of American Greatness is Beginning,” his speech is convincing as a statesman:  
“Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.”

Over the last three years there have been many accusations by Donald Trump on twitter, some of them claiming false news is being said about him. He has led the social media and swayed the public. Donald Trump appears to be a man low on integrity and big on winning, but people often just want a winner as their leader and forgive the lack of integrity.   Film and sound can be altered, and the software people who do it,  regard themselves as good at their jobs.  Last weekend a manipulated video was put on twitter, claiming Joe Biden has dementia and it was viewed over a million times before it was taken down. 

When I read Roosevelt’s speech from the same book, entitled: “The Men with the Muck-Rakes” made in 1906 it echoed the present situation in the USA and the UK.  Here is a quote:

“The liar is no whit better than the thief and if his mendacity takes the form of slander, he may be worse than most thieves.  it puts a premium upon knavery untruthfully to attack an honest man or even with hysterical exaggeration to assail a bad man with untruth.  An epidemic of indiscriminate assault upon character does not good, but very great harm. The soul of every scoundrel is gladdened whenever an honest man is assailed or when even a scoundrel is untruthfully assailed.”

The Penguin Book of Modern Speeches is edited by Brian MacArthur

Voice Phobia. The Fear of (Some) Voices

Misophonia -The Fear of a Particular Voice/Voices

Some voices make you want to scream and screaming is contagious. When you play scary games on Halloween night part of the fun is having a good scream along with a good laugh, but when you’re listening to a voice that makes you want to scream and you can’t leave the room or say anything – what do you do?

When a friend in a group asked for things that frighten us most psychologically, some people said spiders  someone had a button phobia:  Koumpounophobia and a couple of others had phobias with (some) tones of voice: Misophonia.  I suspect that this is linked to the voices of people who they don’t like, because of what they say or represent.  I understand completely that listening to people who you know to be lying and they know that they’re lying, but they say it anyway, can feel like a sharp kick in the stomach.  There are also the droners – these are the people who pretend to sympathise with others, when they haven’t even listened to what’s been said.  I can think of a popular BBC presenter and host who does this a lot and 3 prime ministers.  A client once told me that listening to one political commentator made his teeth stand on edge like the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.  Of course, people can have the greatest voice in the room but if you don’t like what they’re saying it’s going to jar on you.

The best advice for when you’re confronted with someone’s voice that you really can’t bear to hear, is to imagine the sound of the voice as a colour and then change that colour into a colour that you like.  It won’t change your mind about what you’re hearing, but you’ll instantly feel better. 
About 4 percent of the people on Earth have the ability to see sound as a colour automatically.  It’s called synesthesia. A lot of musicians and music writers have the ability. Need help with your Voice? Contact us to find out more:

[contact-form-7 id=”999″ title=”Contact form 1″]