It’s a bit of a challenge to base dialect work in a play fully on accurate, native-speakers’ accents. This is a challenge with more working-class dialects, especially. Oftentimes a full-out realistic dialect onstage is just too difficult to understand. It’s even more of an issue if you’re performing with a dialect from another country, making it even harder for the audience to comprehend what’s being said.
Learning a Cockney Accent
When you’re working on any accent, it’s still job number one to be heard and understood. Clear articulation is a necessity no matter what the accent is, and the moment you’re working on anything other than a “standard” accent (Standard British/RP or General American, for example) there are a lot of elements that move you away from what’s probably clearest to the audience. It’s very common to drop consonants in consonant clusters – such as saying ghosts as ghos. Some call this lazy speech, but it’s probably just efficient speech, really.
In order to learn a Cockney accent for performance, it’s great to have recordings of native speakers, which we do have here on AccentHelp, but even if you listen to Cockney accents, you may be aiming for a target that won’t serve the production. On the upside, when I interviewed various East End Londoners, they recognized that they were speaking to a different audience than they may usually. In one recording, for example, you’ll hear the interviewee’s daughter in the background accusing her of putting her posh voice on for me. ”Cleaning up” your speech in the accent will probably serve the show much better.
One of the ways I often have actors address this is to simply ask What? after a line. I might even ask again, resulting in a third degree of clarity. That’s often the extreme that you need to go to for understandability, and this is definitely true with a Cockney accent. I like to shortcut to thinking of it as “talking to the idiot.” Sometimes all you have to do is look at me, and talking to the idiot is pretty easy to motivate…
Listen to a Cockney Accent
Still looking for resources? Here’s a great video of Danny Dyer speaking with a clearly-Cockney accent, but he’s quite understandable.
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