OK, I’m officially out of any comfort zone I may have
had. My next three challenges, according
to the 40 Voices Table,
#5 Woman, #6 Sound Effect and #7 Animal.
I have certainly never had any natural curiosity or talent for producing
these sounds, so let’s see how things go…
The fifth voice challenge shall be Lady Bracknell from Oscar
Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, which opened in London in
it an early experiment in Victorian melodrama, which is part satire, part
comedy of manners and part intellectual farce, whilst underneath taking aim at
self-righteous moralism and hypocrisy in Victorian Society.
look at the character Lady Bracknell.
refers to her as Algernon’s snobbish, mercenary, and
domineering aunt and Gwendolen’s mother.
Lady Bracknell married well, and her primary goal in life is to see her
daughter do the same. The humour in her
speeches is unintentional, and she embodies the hypocracy and stupidity in the British
aristocracy. She is also a cunning,
So, how does this affect the voice? She needs to sound upper-class, certainly and
with a serious, authoritative tone. The
other important aspect is that she appears in a Victorian melodrama, so a
‘hammy’ or over-the-top performance is required.
Here are some examples of Lady Bracknells who have graced
Movie with Judie Dench as Lady Bracknell – Understated, commanding
1952 Movie with Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell –
1986 TV Movie with Joan Plowright as Lady Bracknell –
It’s also encouraging that men have played Lady
Bracknell, such as David Suchet, which in an interview he described as a very
strange and unfamiliar feeling. Another example of an authoritarian lady figure is Lady
Catherine De Bourg from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
After soaking these up, I felt I still needed a pep talk
before trying this out. So I tried out
the tips of Professor David Ley on how to do a produce British accent.
OK, finally, here are the lines I’ve selected for the
1) Lady Bracknell: It
is very strange. This Mr. Bunbury seems to suffer from curiously bad health.
poor Bunbury is a dreadful invalid.
Lady Bracknell: Well,
I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his
mind whether he was going to live or to die.
2) Lady Bracknell: A
very good age to be married at. I have always been of opinion that a man who
desires to get married should know either everything or nothing. Which do you
Jack: [After some
hesitation] I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.
Lady Bracknell: I
am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural
ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is
gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in
England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would
prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of
violence in Grosvenor Square. What is your income?
3) Lady Bracknell: Where
did the charitable gentleman who had a first-class ticket for this seaside
resort find you?
Jack: [Gravely] In
Lady Bracknell: A
seriously] Yes, Lady Bracknell. I was in a hand-bag- a somewhat large, black leather hand-bag, with handles to it- an ordinary
hand-bag, in fact.
Lady Bracknell: In
what locality did this Mr. James, or Thomas, Cardew come across this ordinary
Jack: In the
cloak-room at Victoria Station. It was given to him in mistake for his own.
Lady Bracknell: The
cloak-room at Victoria Station?