Thursday, December 2, 2010

Language for Stage

Today's NY Times features an interesting article about the language of theatre which resonated with me after my recent and swift Liev-ducation. Back-to-back Liev gives you a unique perspective on his abilities. In many interviews Liev refers to his preference for formality in language; he says he enjoys the rigor of it. I can relate to this. There are days where I will speak only in French just because it feels good. I'm usually running around my house at the time...

The author of this article comments on how jarring it can be to hear a production with people whose language is all over the map. But isn't that kind of the Nature of the Beast? This brings me to the subject of what they call (ed?) the Transatlantic Language. Sometimes referred to as the Great Equalizer, it is the very thing that made you wonder if Kathryn Hepburn (Connecticut) was really British born. To today's North American ear it's a Brit, through and through. But for the English, the pronunciation of certain words makes it irrefutably American. Think Charles Emmerson Winchester describing his beloved Bahhhhstun.

Liev is clearly skilled in many accents, British being no exception as I've seen (so far) in The Painted Veil. This New York Times article once again paints Liev in a positive light (they are averageing an article a month on him right now!YAHOO!) After having seen excerpts of Liev doing Shakespeare, it's clear that he has straddled the trick of the Transatlantic (when needed), which makes him acutely comfortable in all worlds. His portrayal of Macbeth is the perfect example. Jennifer Ehle's Lady Macbeth is completely unnaffected in accent, and would have clashed next to a very British Liev.

And anyways, Macbeth was Scottish. :-)

What does Transatlantic sound like? I'm pretty sure people from Philly don't speak like this: