The West End Whingers are always happy to support expressions of disgruntlement aimed at sloppy stagecraft and are happy to be able to commend to you two articles in today’s The Times.
Quite what the context was for this is not reported, but in an article entitled Speak up, we can’t hear you at the front arts correspondent Dalya Alberge (must be an anagram; we suspect her real name is Bella Yardage) reported that some old people can’t make out the words when they see plays these days:
The director Sir Peter Hall, who founded the Royal Shakespeare Company and headed the National Theatre, told The Times that “most actors under the age of 40 are struggling to be heard”. He was backed by the actor Edward Fox who ridiculed younger actors for mumbling their lines in the pursuit of realism. Both blamed the decline in diction on the demise of repertory theatre and young actors doing more work on television and commercials than on stage.
In an accompanying “comment” piece called Wordies are becoming scrambled burblies (sack that sub-editor NOW) Benedict Nightingale does some fabulous naming and shaming:
Three fine young performers who could improve their diction: Tom Hardy, the lead in the National’s recent Man of Mode; Sally Phillips, the TV actress in Pinter’s People at the Haymarket; and sadly, Ewan McGregor, whose Iago in the Donmar’s Othello whizzes over Shakespeare’s lines the way Evel Knievel leapt across buses.
Now all this is of great interest to the Whingers because it’s actually a very complicated issue: Phil is profoundly deaf (at least when it comes to hearing responses to his admittedly rare utterance “Does anyone want a drink while I’m at the bar?”) whereas Andrew likes the theatre to be nice and quiet so that he can snooze undisturbed.
But it also harks back to our previous question – When did theatre audiences get so wussy? (never satisfactorily answered). And indeed, it’s years since we heard a member of the audience shout “Speak up!” to the actors.
If it’s not too late for New Year resolutions, please make one now not to suffer in silence. We’ll be right behind you egging you on and then going “tsk” and shaking our heads.
Much blame is laid at the door of telly as the new breeding ground for actors which goes to prove how prescient All About Eve was:
Claudia Caswell (Marilyn Monroe): Tell me this, do they have auditions for television?
Addison DeWitt (George Sanders): That’s all television is, my dear, nothing but auditions.