Hearing you loud and CLEAR

The BBC has launched an investigation into actors whose noted lack of vocal clarity and enunciation can leave their audience in a perpetual state of plot confusion.

BBC director general Tony Hall is taking things very seriously - and he’s in no mood to whisper about it.

Although the nitty gritty of modern UK drama demands a more natural and subtle delivery, clarity matters. It always has done.

Lines are always there for a reason. Performances and characterisation may be far removed from the Julie Andrews' standard, but if an actor - on stage or screen - ruins the delivery of a vital plot clue or revelation, we’re all left scratching our heads.

Acting is all about ‘Reacting’. On set, actors need to be able to hear every word that’s said. As an actor, the art of listening can never be under-estimated. Good acting (and film editing) is so much about an audience gaining an insight into the ‘Thinking’ and processing of information by a character. Actors can’t ‘think and process’ or ‘react’ in a truthful, honest way if some core - said or unsaid - agreement on voice matching, range and clarity isn’t made.

Sometimes post production software can affect dialogue levels - particularly when mixed with the addition of incidental music - but a poll by The Stage suggested that eighty percent of viewers think too many actors are mumbling on stage and screen. What was that? I said eighty percent!

So, what can an actor do to reduce their risk of a vocal violation?

Voice over actor and vocal coach Nic Redman offers clear advice…

"Articulation on screen can be a tricky one. You can be working at low volume in very intimate settings and often, let’s be honest, in attempts to be authentic in your portrayal of the average Jo character the intricacies of articulation training can be forgotten. Which is understandable.But there are a few simple things you can do to make sure you are being heard and understood without veering into Mr Higgins v Eliza Doolittle territory.

Voice training is all about freeing and releasing the body so it can be responsive to breath, thought and text. Articulation is no different. Exercises like facial gurning, facial massage and classic tongue twisters can increase muscular freedom, which leads to an improvement in clarity and often volume. Even a gentle blow through the lips, like you’re doing an impression of a horse, can add a little bit of articulatory freedom.

Tongue twisters are brilliant for waking up the articulators whilst you’re waiting around on set. Facial massage is a great way of loosening up the articulators if you’re waiting around on set and can’t make any noise. And guring is an excellent replacement for facial massage if you’re waiting around on set with your make up already done. There’s always a way. If in doubt, give one of us voice coaches a call, we will find a way for you.”

Let’s raise a crystal clear glass to speech - and make sure our words on stage and screen continue to hit home.

Thinking Actors will be running a special workshop with Nic on Thursday April 27th at MediaCityUK. If you've ever thought about voice over work, why not join us? Find out more at www.thinkingactors.co.uk/acting-classes-workshops

You can find out more about Nic Redman by visiting nicredmanvoice.com.

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