St. Mark’s and Hockaday students learn to “act” British in preparation for the fall play.
Odds are you heard a slew of wildly flamboyant British accents as you passed through the Hockaday hallways last month. No, we didn’t start an exchange program with Hogwarts. In fact, if you listened closely, these British accents were quite fake, mere portrayals of the accents of landed gentry of 19th century England as the cast of Pride and Prejudice practiced their lines.
This use of a British accent was an integral part of getting into character. Each student had a different way of preparing for their part, no matter how large or small.
Junior Natalie said she was “strangely prepared” when the time came for her to adopt a British accent.
“Since my friends and I joined studio art freshman year, Ms. McCullough has given us countless tips on how to speak in a true English accent,” Natalie said.
Junior Kate felt quite differently as it was her first time to participate in a St. Mark’s/Hockaday drama production. “I was thrilled when I was cast,” Kate said, but “when I learned that we would have to speak in British accents in the show, I was terrified.”
Freshman Avery was also “a little nervous” about her accent. She took a different approach, however, and watched the Pride and Prejudice movie. “I copied the phrases the actors said and app[lied] it to my own lines,” said Avery.
At rehearsals, St. Mark’s drama teacher Rod Blaydes spoke in his own British accent and asked the actors to do the same in order to fully immerse themselves in 19th century England.
“We just kept trying no matter how badly [our accents] sounded,” Natalie said.
With this British language barrier as an extra obstacle to success, “hell week” (the week before the show) was more like a “bloody hell week.”
The play was comedic on many fronts. Snide remarks in British accents drew a good few chuckles from the audience, but staying in character during these moments was a challenge for some of the boys, who had to conceal their laughter with a tight lipped smile.
The costumes also added to the authenticity of the scene, from the dapper boys in their three piece suits and top hats to girls looking prim and proper in their lace getups and gloves with their flapping fans.
The dancing, however, proved difficult in the tiny St. Mark’s Black Box. What should have been elegant waltzing manifested itself as stiff sidestepping – definitely not up to par with the dancing of the era.
The players’ British accents were sharp and on point, which helped the delivery of many punch lines. Natalie’s accent was flawless as she warded off the pursuits of Mr. Collins, played by junior Charles, and jested with her lover Mr. Darcy, played by freshman William.
As the lead, Sydney held his own against the more experienced actors in the cast, namely Natalie, who he met halfway for the kiss that sealed the play.
– Mary Clare