The Class Project
- Gareth K Vile
- 29 August 2017
This article is from 2017.
Accents can be power
Rebecca Atkinson-Lord appreciates the power of a good accent: bought up in The Black Country, her childhood voice had the appropriate local contours and she still revels in local vowels and words. Yet she was taught to speak 'properly', and knows that this voice carries the weight of authority. In a direct lecture format with lyrical interludes, she traces the journey of her accents and reflects on the ironies of her attempt to own the very way that she sounds.
The tension between her impulse towards a rigorous, academic mode (she ensures that various recorded quotations are given correct citations) and the homely tongue that she loves drives her discussion of class. As with much autobiographical theatre, there's little attempt at explicit theatricality but an insistence on honesty, even as she admits that she has shifted her place of birth slightly for romantic effect.
There are a few details of theatrical emphasis: she applies make up, turns to a microphone for specific stories, begins with a song and even changes her dress on stage. But these are all familiar tropes – the moment in her underwear signifying honesty, perhaps, a strategy over-used, and merely illustrate rather than enhance her lecture's investigations.
Her witty conclusion notwithstanding – she explains the moral of the show in an exaggerated impersonation of Margaret Thatcher, thereby undermining its sincerity – Atkinson-Lord is an engaging speaker and presents her thoughts and conclusions precisely. The way that education can both enable and alienate is emphasised, and her tone echoes a well-tempered University lecturer. But such personal content resists the emphatic energy of theatrical spectacle, making this firmly an educational experience even as she entertains with her wise words.
Summerhall, run ended.