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: