Part of the unit 12 project is to use aspects from sessions over the previous two years to put into our pieces for the final project and performance. Before this session, I had put in my unit 12 task 1 template that many of our sessions have focused on voice, including what to do to improve the quality of our voices for any aspect of performing. The purpose of this afternoon is to recap everything that we have learned in terms of voice, with the to put it into practice and complete activities which involve adapting our voice to different characters.
For me, I find voice as a crucial aspect in performance and there were a couple of points in terms of voice which I had not remembered as well as others, therefore, the beginning of the session was very helpful. Only individually can we take control of our own voices, if we are not loud or clear enough, we must work out how we can improve and ensure that the voice suits the character and will be at a high standard for audiences to understand. The three aspects that we talked about to think about when using voice in a performance include:
- Volume- If audiences want to hear anything, we must speak at a high volume. Going back to controlling our own voices, even if our characters are meant to be whispering, we should still be able to control that and speak at a loud whisper. I practiced this after the session and found that I couldn’t fully speak at a whisper, but instead, with some of my voice but very quiet. We spoke about that if we speak quietly, depending on how the actor portrays the character, it can either show a lack of confidence, or that character is very high up and in complete control.
- Timbre- This is the tone of the sound of our voice whilst speaking, depending on our character type, the tone of our voices will differ. If we are playing an angry character, the tone of that character’s voice will be harsh.
- Articulation- Even if the volume of someone’s voice is loud and they are speaking at a correct pace, if their voice is not clear, they will not understand what is being said. For me, I think that this is the main part of the voice that I need to work on improving, I have noticed that when I have performed, I can sometimes struggle to speak some words, swallowing some of them. I know that I can improve this by ensuring I speak at a reasonable pace and really think about what I am saying and will practice this so that I don’t have this issue for the final performance and for the future.
A fourth one which I though of after the session was mentioned briefly for articulation, which is pace and will affect articulation. We need to make sure that when we are speaking, it is at a reasonable pace, if we are speaking quickly, it may sound as if we are rushing the line and audiences won’t understand. As well as that, if we speak slowly, it can affect the quality of the whole performance, making it dull for audiences. Last January, I played Eugenie in ‘A Flea in Her Ear’ and one of her lines was as she was in a rush in the hotel, speaking to Lucienne. This meant I had to quicken the pace of her lines, however, I used other aspects of the voice, speaking loud, clear and I broke up parts of the line so everyone could hear it. I can take this forward and remember to use this in future performances which may include the final project performance.
There may be parts of speeches which will involve emphasising some of the words, directors will not take much time with directing actors on which words to emphasise. They may include it in notes or while they are blocking a scene, emphasising certain words can be to point out something that the audience will need to know or are vital to continuing the scene. In terms of voice, I would raise the tone of my voice, breaking it up to ensure it is clear and slightly raised in volume, therefore, I would be using everything I have learned, but amplifying it.
Another aspect of voice that we have been learning about and practicing over the two years is using an accent. We have often listened to different accents, writing down the word in the way that we hear it, not how it is actually spelt. This has been the most effective way for me to practice an accent, for example, learning a Welsh Aberystwyth accent. For accents, the most important thing that I have learned over the past two years is that you can never practice enough, it is vital for learning it and keeping it. We will use different accents for different people, for example, a posh enemy will have an RP accent with a heavy emphasis on articulation to show his high status. For the final project, I realised in this session that I can use this an opportunity to challenge myself or other people who I may feel could suit a certain character.
Before moving onto the exercises, one more part of the voice we recapped on was choral speaking. This is something we learned and practiced last year for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, all speaking Puck’s monologue “If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended…”. We all have to speak at a clear pace and loud enough so that we can all speak together, as well as voice, this will also include listening to everyone to connect with everyone.
This recap has been very useful to me as it had been a while since we went over aspects of the voice, there are some parts of the voice which I am stronger at than others, such as volume but not so much clarity. We were able to put this into practice with an activity where Lynn had put characters into a hat which we had to pick out. The first character I picked out was a 1930’s New York gangster, we were then able to go away and practice it. The situation for all of our characters was that we had to walk into a room with all of us sat in a circle, not realising we were in the wrong room until later. For my character, I spoke about a robbery going wrong and how we nearly got caught before realising I was in the wrong room, walking out and pretending I said nothing. I got feedback afterwards that the accent was good and from voice and movement, they could tell I was a New York Gangster, however, it wasn’t clear that I was from the 1930’s. To improve this, I also need to think about which words I include in my sentence, speaking about other men with 1930 names such as Tony. At first I spoke at a fast pace, so I tried it again but slower and also made the character even louder to show to everyone that this character was a leader.
The next character I played was a jolly farmers wife, this one I struggled more on because I didn’t practice it enough beforehand. I think overall I could have practiced more what I was going to say beforehand, this is so I can work on the accent and ensure it is at a good quality. A problem a few of us had, including me was that I felt awkward being the first one to say anything while we were all practicing, so we all stood or practiced movement instead. I attempted the voice twice, the first time it was a high pitch but I was advised that I need to vary my voice, raising the tone up and down. This is something that I know I will have to do for all of my performances, not just this project and just for accents.
There was other pieces of feedback from others in the class who performed their characters which I was able to note down to think about. A few were given children at specific ages, we need to take into consideration that children will change at different ages, so playing a character who is meant to be 11 will not work for someone who is acting as if they are playing a five year old. We will have to vary the tune and pitch of our voice as well as what we will say, we wouldn’t say any complicated words. This is something we took from TIE and the feedback that we used the word “defeated” twice in the piece, but key stage 1 children might not know what that word means. As well as that, when playing an old character, our voices may be crackly and either high or low, depending what the character is like, for example, if the character is rough and have smoked for years, it will be lower and more rough.
In conclusion, I am glad that we not only recapped aspects of the voice, but also being able to put it into practice. After the session, I know that there are aspects of the voice that I need to practice, which for me, is the most important thing with voice, if we don’t practice them, then they cannot be at a high standard. I think that this session went well and I now feel confident enough to put everything I have learned and recapped into this project.