Monday, April 10, 2006

Accentuate the Positive

Still gloomy, but it's time to move on...back to the stuff of everyday life in this town. There's plenty of it, too...

My voice is forever playing tricks on me. This morning I listened to a tape of an interview I did on Friday, in a Chelsea café, with a New York poet, and I cringed. I could not believe the sound of the vowels that were coming from my mouth. They were all sharp and pingy and perky. Nothing long or soft or flat about them. I sounded like a bloody Yank. It was embarrassing. Truly, deeply embarrassing. It’s bad enough listening to your own voice on tape, but when your own voice is doing a gleeful impression of Jennifer Aniston, entirely without your permission, it’s a hell of a lot worse. I skipped over half of the tape (and while I was doing that, I asked myself, why do I talk so much in interviews, anyway? I’m not the one with a book or a play or a line of ridiculously expensive shoes to promote. Put a sock in it next time, I tell myself. But I never learn).

My accent is even more confused than ever at the moment, veering at it has done, in the past week, between Brooklyn and Birmingham and the back lanes of rural Ireland. We were in Ireland last weekend, for a sad occasion (but it was lovely to be able to be there), and as always when I’m down home the thickness of tongue in which I first learned to speak comes back as if I’d never siphoned it away during those freshman seminars in Trinity. Then when I returned to NY, it was straight into the final rehearsals for Ecstasy, and then the performances, which had me storming around the stage for three nights with an accent brazen enough to give Kat Slater a run for her money (wrong city, I know). My character, Dawn, was a blabbermouth and a screechy drunk, “teeth-sucking and spread-eagled” as one of my classmates who came to the show described her, and while I had a huge amount of fun playing her, I’m glad to bid her farewell. I have genuinely never done anything as exhausting in my whole life, and I have renewed respect for actors who do this for a living and not just for a sort of experiment, as I did; the physical and emotional tension in which your body and mind are locked every second of being onstage – which in my case amounted to almost 3 hours a night – is incredible, and left me sore in bones I didn’t even know I had. I can’t imagine doing it for a 3 week run. And I can’t imagine moving between parts, or having more than one part on the go at once, as I know many actors do – Dawn still won’t leave me be, and I keep slipping into her trashy tones every so often, denouncing the world and its mother in 1970s Brummie slang. But you know what, if it keeps me from Manhattanisms, from the rash of likes and ohmigods that have been crawling over my vocabulary with worrying tenacity in the last few months, then I’m happy, I am. Ooh ah.


Auds said...

It's very easy to lose the Midlands accent becuase it's so flat.
My accent changes on a daily basis depending who I'm talking to.
The only way you could keep the Midlands accent is to accentuate (I probably should use a different word!) it so much you sound like you were born in the bog circa 1873, and speak like every vowel deserves a least a minute to itself.

Sinéad said...

I talk WAY too much in interviews and have more than my fair share of cringe-inducing mini-disc playbacks.

Delighted to hear your experience of treading the boards was so rewarding - you're going to have to come back and resurrect Dublin theatre (thanks so much for the quotes, they were excellent).