I don't work any more because I don't work any more.
At the tender age of 17, I was subject to the relentless pugnacious consequences of life’s learning curve.
There were some safe havens to cling to however. One of them was music. I played in a youth orchestra. At the end of a concert at New Brighton’s Foral Pavillion-terribly dry acoustics, I was ushered with two others into a back room. There was a man from Radio Merseyside with a tape-recorder. In a calm personable manner, he explained that he was going to ask some questions.
When he switched the recorder on his whole manner changed to that sort of over-serious demeanour exclusively characteristic of local media. And his voice? A the time there was a popular American zany comedy show called Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. He sounded just like the mock radio announcer who introduced the show from “beautiful downtown Burbank.”
What happened to his normal accent?
Perhaps it is the most ludicrous of notions that we have “voices for choices.” Is it?
I watched part of the original broadcast of the queen’s coronation. The commentator’s tone was superior and condescending. He mentioned the “courage” of young Betty in withstanding the rain as if only royalty did not deserve to get wet whilst we commoners, looking on through our brand new televisions for which we had gone into debt just to witness this demonstration of class division, thoroughly deserved a jolly good soaking in the great filthy smog-ridden outdoors up by our dishevelled derelict tenements.
In the early days, even the great David Attenborough rocked a distinctively clipped upper-clarse accent.
Take a look at or a listen to local TV news. The best one ever was a bloke called Tim Ewart on BBC Southeast.
Now a political correspondent for ITN, he presented the local stories of rotting fish under Disgusted of TW’s floorboards and the like with such profound gravitas, people of a sensitive nature would be genuinely frightened. Even the good news stories had people plunging into deep dark holes of melancholic misery.
But it’s nothing compared to presenters grasping at the opportunity to do a real interview with a politician or corporate figure from the NHS or whatever. It’s children getting the chance to be a real growed-up like the nationals on Newsnight.
Their voice hardens as they contest every response accompanied by a sharp abrupt flailing of the hands. This is the role-play practised as a media-studies under-graduate coming to life.
“I must be firm and assertive”
“I must pick holes in every answer.”
“I must show that I mean business.”
“I cannot possibly let them have an easy ride.”
Ah, bless, look at their little faces. Think of a focused toddler’s expression as they are trying to walk for the first time.
I once bought a book by Jeremy Paxman:
I found his prose hilariously mocking but I couldn’t read it without the sound of his sneering supercilious voice ringing away in the background. Most irritating.
What about politicians? Does Philip Hammond spend his whole life enunciating in that faux calm slow manner?
It doesn’ quite fit the sterotype of the long-haired upper-class yob does it? Hmmmm! Maybe he’s a changed man? Maybe he’s always had the gentle eloquent bedside manner? sorry, I’ve just been distracted by a large green orca whale flying outside my window. She’s giving me a really funny look she is.
Does that old union dinosaur from the eighties, Arthur Scargill talk to everyone like he has his back to the wall? Those aggressive defensive tones were too offensive for ears of the more reasoned human.
Oh how he must have wound up the rodded fellows of the conservative cabinet. Loathed by the middle-classses, scargill seemed proud of his power for irritation as he deemed coal to be the future of England’s wealth. It’s almost quaint.
But the long-running miners’ dispute revealed the sheer wanton brutality of opposing powers. It split families and communities-so many genuine angry voices
A good actor carries no contrivance. The voices are natural. What are your choices for the best exponents of Winston Churchill? Is Gary Oldman the best?
It’s significant that such parts can be played by men with a naturally fruity voice. There is just no need for artifice. George Sanders, (Sheer Kahn, Jungle Book) Richard Burton and Michael Gambon are just three examples. Judi Dench as M? All she had to do was sound cross or bored. Mae West, Laurel and Hardy and Edward G Robinson are fine examples from over the water. Could Peter Lorre ever play a goodie?
It’s all in the voice.
I avoid many series on Sky and the BBC because the actors are trying too hard. I can hear it in the voice.
A local grammar school 6th form drama department invaded our year 6 to present homework issues through a series of short sketches. It was too stylised to be believed. It certainly entertained whilst highlighting some important issues but for me, they were just imitating the mannerisms of “Friends”. Friends was funny but I couldn’t do a boxed set.
This brings me to teaching.
Think back to your school days. If you ever met your teacher out in the real world think about their voice. Yes! Teachers have a teacher’s voice. Any teacher who keeps their classroom voice in the Victoria Place needs help. Unless, the teacher used their natural manner at the cyber face.
My mum knew. She responded with “How much?” She knew my borrowing money tone. Our Rose is now learning the “butter daddy up” voice. It’s working.
I’m sure she’ll become an expert. I was often subject to this style of attack from some of my pupils. It made me smile. I felt honoured that I had achieved such a status.
I will finish with the great voice of admonishment. We all have one. Do you present yourself as a committed protagonist or the victim of a wrongdoing? Have a little look into your manner. Consider a change perhaps? It may be fun. At school I was noted for one particular style. It wasn’t always like that. (Adopts a sincere, believe me voice.)
Voices for choices?
Let’s all shout a loud emphatic YES. Maybe we should all listen to “The Archers.” Please note, advertising practices have been avoided in order to avoid an excess of vomitus.