The issue of accents among actors can be the subject of many a feisty debate, one that many people seeking acting classes in Leeds might be reflecting on just now.
Late last month it was revealed that the use of Yorkshire accents in a theatre in, yes, you’ve guessed it, Yorkshire, proved to be objectionable to one punter, who left early and then demanded a refund after the performance by Halifax-based theatre company Northern Broadsides.
The incident happened at the York Theatre Royal, with director Tom Bird tweeting that: “We’ve got a complaint this morning from someone who left after an hour of As You Like It last week, because it had “Yorkshire accents” in it.”
Why a Shakespeare play has to have a particular accent in it is not certain. After all, MacBeth will be more authentic with Scottish accents rather than the Queen’s English. One might further ask whether the Merchant of Venice requires Italian accents or the cast of Hamlet should sound like their previous acting gig was in Borgen.
Even so, it is no bad thing for aspiring actors to learn different accents. There are many roles that might require a particular accent and if you can produce it convincingly, especially if it differs from your own, this can open up many more roles for you. After all, there are not many parts for poor accents, unless you want to be the policeman in ‘Allo ‘Allo.
While there are specialist coaches and coaching services out there for those who want to fine-tune their collection of accents, the place to start is in your basic acting lessons. Give it a go from sounds you may hear on TV or favourite plays. Practice Brummie after watching Peaky Blinders or Cockney from watching Eastenders.
Talking of Peaky Blinders, it is worth remembering that Shakespeare himself was from the West Midlands, so perhaps his accent was less like Received Pronunciation and rather more like Tommy Shelby. Whether that, however, is the accent the disappointed theatregoer in York had hoped to hear is perhaps somewhat open to doubt.