I have spent some time this Fall thinking about the connection between the text and voice, and how a deeply-embraced and -understood text affects the body.
Well, imagine it this way: take King Lear's powerful line, "Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! Spout, rain!" (Act III sc ii). It comes in the second section of the famous, "Blow, winds..." rant on the heath. Now, when working with students, it's pretty hard to cast a 10-year-old (or, for that matter, a 30-year-old lawyer) as King Lear. To say that the emotion depth and experience might not be there quite yet is an understatement of laughable proportions.
But what it you were to unpack that beautiful little line of blank verse as an experience in sound? What if you were to dig into the line on the basis of the images of the storm, rooting your feet, and feeling that power surge through you? What if you were to feel the thunder in those /r/, /b/ and /l/ sounds ("Rumble thy bellyful")? What if the lightning in 'Spit, fire!' was to shoot from your lips like arrows? What if the openness of 'Spout, rain!' was full of the invitation for the storm's worst downpour? What then? Put them all together, and unleash the hounds, as it were.
Very quickly you discover that there is something in this text that transcends meaning, and that, I believe, stems from the magical combination of rhythm and sound. It pushes you - if you let it - to places that - again, if you let it - bring from your voice, through your body's experience of the rhythm and sound, a more profound and powerful understanding than any mere reading - or textual analysis - would ever provide. And you don't need to be playing King Lear to get this. Try it.
Now, what about the insults? Well, many people know that Shakespeare was a brilliant insulter. I, for one, wouldn't have wanted to incite him, if his insults flew out of his mouth a fraction as effectively as they fly out of his character's mouths.
Where this becomes interesting in Voice work is when we begin to explore the sounds of the insults as a way to deepen the meaning in the body, which will then - in my experience - percolate up and out through the voice.
Take, for example, Timon of Athens' biting "Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon!" (Act IV sc iii). The /w/ and /p/ sounds virtually dart out of the language at the listener - the tightness the lips use to form the sounds contain depths of loathing - look at yourself when you say those words, you'll see what I mean. These bookend the the vitriolic, even hiss-like 'clean enough'. The 'ee' sounds in both words share the close positioning of /w/ and /p/, coupled with the pulling back of the lips, snarl-like. Put it all together, and the insult takes on sharpness that courses through your physical self. The sounds make the words, the body makes the voice.
Over and over again you can experience the unique joys of Shakespeare's insults at the sound-level - as part of voice work, sure, but even more deeply as body work.
Now, away, 'thou lump of foul deformity' (Richard III, Act 1 sc ii). Go practise some insults.
Hello! My name is Donna, and Raconteur is my Studio. Words are my passion - especially beautiful, powerful words, beautifully and powerfully shared. I never planned to be a Spoken Arts instructor, but I was lucky enough to have fallen into the work 23+ years ago - and I have never really looked back.