Life After Scandal (2) 8

I commented on the BBC’s first class production of Robin Soans’ excellent and thought provoking play, Life After Scandal.

I didn’t like the portrayal of my character; not in the script, which used my own words, but in the acting. What follows is a further comment I added, but I thought should be brought up to the top of the blog.

I heard it again this morning because Nadira was listening for the first time. I am now a bit more annoyed by the silly voice – like Charles Hawtrey with a lisp. The words were genuinely my own, and devalued by the petulant and childish voice in which they were delivered.

I think partly what annoyed me was that I do indeed have a congenital speech defect, and there is always a tendency to portray anyone with a speech defect as slightly ridiculous. Just because you cannot pronounce properly does not mean that your words do not have serious intent. I don’t mind the defect being reproduced, but not as evidence of unseriousness.

I can’t pronounce r or th. The condition is known as disarthria (which must have been some doctor taking the….) I also can’t distinguish between beer, bare and bear.

People often think that not pronouncing r is an affectation. When I try the result is just a mess, and I often have embarassing conversations where people can’t understand me. My name is particularly unlucky in the circumstance. It would not be at all natural for me to change the mess of my attempted r into a w, but if I did so people would perhaps understand better what I am trying to say. Roy Jenkins was always accused of his w for r being a deliberate affectation, and I suspect it was only in that sense, that it was the nearest sound he could consciously make that people readily understood.

I don’t mind now, but I was horribly conscious of this as a teenager and young man. I think it was the remembrance of the constant mickey-taking, some kindly meant, that made me so sensitive to my portrayal in this radio version of the play.

That aside, the play really is good. Here’s the link again:

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8 thoughts on “Life After Scandal (2)

  • Sabretache


    I can understand your annoyance. All I can say in mitigation for the BBC (and I'm far from being apologist for it) is that I do not think there was any intent to devalue what you said. My guess is that it was a genuine attempt to convey nuances of personality that, in your case back-fired somewhat. For example, and despite what was said in an earlier comment, I thought that Christine Hamilton, Edwina Currie, Margaret Cook, David Leigh, Lord Montagu and others came across superbly. There was no need to introduce them so-to-speak, you just knew who they were.

    As an aside, whilst I know and appreciate how hurtful some reactions to disabilty can be (I am stone deaf in one ear which produces some bizarre symptoms that nobody who hasn't experienced them can comprehend), I can also appreciate their occasional classic contribution to comedy. For example, that 'Only Fools and Horses' episode where Rachael was required to perform a duet of the Roy Orbison song "Crying" with a guy who, as it was revealed only when performing it live, couldn't pronounce his R's. Absolutely hilarious – IMHO anyway.

  • Craig


    I agree that disability, like all aspects of life, should not be completely debarred from humour, and I laughed at the Wodewick the Wobber bit in the Life of Brian. But here I thought it was used to give a voice characterisation as a plonker that was not justified in the script.

  • Strategist

    Fair comment, but maybe you'd better get used to it: it's gonna be real tough when Steve Coogan does you as Alan Partridge goes clubbing in Central Asia!

  • Craig


    Having spoken with Steve Coogan about his motivation for wanting to do it, and knowing Michael Winterbottom's track record, I am really not too worried about the tone of the film – yet.

  • PhilPalmer

    On the 'r' thing, try saying a 'd' and changing your mind at the last moment. Works for me on some words, though not all.

  • chingolo

    I found the BBC radio play excellent and thought-provoking – on several issues. But don't worry about being made to appear a "plonker": it didn't stike anyone in this household that way at all. No shades of Charles Hawtry!

  • Stephen Jones

    I used to pronounce an 'r' like a 'w' till I went to France and found I can pronounce a French r perfectly.

    The result is now that my r's sound like g's.

    One problem with the after scandal play is that it mingles out and out villains such as Aitkin and the Hamilton's with genuine victims of injustice such as yourself, Monatague or Ingram.

  • Craig


    Thanks. I can't do a French "r" either, though it is a bit better than my English one. Peculiarly PhilPalmer your suggestion of starting from d seems to work a bit, but I find that, like other things I have tried, the self-consciousness of worrying about pronunication has other worse effects on my speech. I've got myself finaly to a position where I don't really care, and I think I'll stay there.

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