THE BLOG
26/07/2013 11:30 BST | Updated 23/09/2013 06:12 BST

Why Are We Grumbling About Mumbling?

The BBC Director General's comments last week about mumbling actors has helped to shine more light on to a complex issue.

Lord Hall's comments managed to create a national wave of debate, pinpointing numerous TV productions and their most inaudible cast members.

Also interesting were the debates and discussions it created around the peripherals. It has opened the door for other factors in production to be addressed - such as the quality of direction and what happens on set.

I feel it has also created an opportunity for us, as a Performing Arts School in the UK, to explain the way that drama schools train their actors to ensure they attain clear speech.

LIPA, like all drama schools, endeavours to teach the techniques that will help the actor in the art of communicating with an audience, be it vocal, physical, or in action.

Clarity of speech is an important part of that communication process that requires acting students to develop improved vocal quality, range, articulation and resonance. It's important to be aware that no drama school sets out to teach "mumbling."

When you work within a Performing Arts school every day, you see all of these skills being tailored to perfection. You see how hard actors train to ensure their voices are not only strong, clear and effective but that they can also adapt to the wide range of roles they will be faced with once training has ceased.

All acting professionals are able to deliver correct pronunciation and vocal clarity. But they are also required to respond to the demands of the role they are cast in and the instructions of the production team and director to help convey the feeling, reality and cultural context of a particular production.

Sometimes those cultural contexts require different words, rhythms, cadences, and pronunciations. In addition, these cultural contexts may be somewhat removed from the experience of certain members of the audience, causing a misunderstanding of what is being said or meant.

The problem, in this case, is not so much with the sender, but with the receiver as, naturally, their cultural background effects the way they understand what they hear.

Different generations of viewers will have different expectations too - some viewers may struggle to decipher what is being said in a gritty TV drama, whereas some may feel that more relaxed syntax heightens the overall ambience and effect.

It is the job of the actor to ensure that communication takes place, and often the actor must find a way to use the specific vocal patterns of a culture whilst at the same time, finding a way to communicate to a wider audience. This is most often accomplished through training.

We must also remember that performance has greatly evolved over the last few decades and, largely due to audience demand, it mirrors the cultural and ethnic diversity of real life more than ever.

With very little exception, all actors on our screens and stages today have all been through the rigorous vocal training in a Performing Arts school, so they leave equipped with the skills to deliver a vocal pattern that is not only culturally authentic, but understandable to a general and diverse audience.

If we really look at WHY it is that actors can't be understood, then we must take into account all of these factors and never assume they are mumbling, bad performers, as this is rarely the case.