Many thanks to those who sent me texts to say Patsy Rodenburg was on Desert Island Discs. I had a day off on Friday and was able to listen to the podcast. She certainly is an icon for voice coaching and voice coaches in the last 20 years. The Right to Speak, published in 1992 is a wonderful book, and one I recommend for clients and students who are new to voice training, along with Anne Karpf’s The Human Voice. I particularly like the way in The Right to Speak, that Patsy writes about how vocal habits can develop along with language. “Urban life has given the voice a brashness, a quality of irony and mistrust with no room for answering……Surely the loudness is just a bluff so as to sound important in a mass of competing voices.” I coach a female scientist at the moment who could never get a word in edgeways at board meetings and who expounded this theory. Patsy Rodenburg is one of the first voice coaches to write about being born with a unique and wonderful voice.
It’s what happens later that can alter our voice and speech and spoil our ability to communicate.
Before Patsy Rodenburg was the voice and speech coach at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the voice coaching there – though brilliant in the theory of voice and speech – was not so good in practice. At least not on the three year professional actors course that I attended. The teaching course was probably better for voice and speech because of Rona Laurie. At the beginning of my acting training at the Guildhall, myself and my fellow students had a particularly harsh voice coach. We were subject to all sorts of intricate exercises and notes about what was wrong with our speech and our voices and what enormous efforts we would have to make. It was all very confusing as the more I “worked” at the exercises the tighter my voice became. Now we ex-fellow students have a really good laugh about it that first year at the Guildhall, but at the time it was frightening and debilitating. Patsy, it emerged during Desert Island Discs, was marvellously unfazed by her teachers. Her courage has added to the quality of acting in general. She has given voice training in the UK an enormous quality boost. How great it is to turn on the radio and find programmes with people who really listen and respond to each other. For me personally she was and is a major source of inspiration.