I almost failed drama GCSE*. Yes, drama.
Despite years of private Guildhall speech and drama lessons, summers spent creating weird and wonderful productions in a local theatre and a love for all things dramatic, I was 2 grades from failing my drama GCSE.
It’s easy to blame failure on someone else, but, I am justified in saying that the teacher wasn’t great.
He’d give us a sheet of A4 paper containing one task and then leave us alone in the classroom. He’d then return 5 minutes before the end of the lesson, reeking of alcohol and expecting us (a group of teenagers) to have created a masterpiece following curriculum guidelines. Um…. well….. what?! No. That wasn’t going to happen.
I was so distressed by the situation that my parents considered moving me to another school, but it wasn’t worth the risk or the effort that close to exam time.
So I ended up with a rubbish grade in a subject that I loved and had previously excelled in.
But, there is a silver lining to this cloud.
The very same irresponsible, tipsy teacher put my name forward to a guy called Mike who had a recording studio in my village and who was on the look out for young voices. Mr Tipsy Teacher recommended me as having a “great voice and good skills” – I know I couldn’t believe it myself.
The studio was a large garden shed converted into an all-singing all-dancing sound den with buttons and knobs and mics and cables everywhere. Mike was a specialist in recording sounds of nature so the location was perfect.
In that quirky garden shed is where my journey in the world of voiceovers began.
I started off with a recording for a local museum. I played the role of the child in a narration about the history of the museum. It wasn’t very exciting but I loved it. I loved bringing the little girl to life and describing how a day in her life used to be.
Following this, I was offered an incredible opportunity to play the role of female student for a series of GCSE science learning cassettes alongside the brilliant actor Robert Llewellyn aka Kryten in the science fiction UK TV series.
Recording with him was a ball.
Robert was hired as “Kryten” to be the robot genius answering our questions about science. He was flawless, almost always, except when trying to pronounce “feces”.
As you can imagine, feces for an early teen is already a very giggle-producing subject. But listening to a robot trying and failing to pronounce it was simply too much for my immature, silly head to cope with. And as laughter is so catching, we’d both end up roaring, unable to complete a single sentence and getting chucked out of the studio to calm down.
Fast forward some 30 years and I’m pleased to say I have these giggle urges under control. I’m inclined to swear like a trooper when recording alone and often throw myself out of the booth, but in live sessions, I’m always on my best behaviour.
Script writers just be warned. Throw in the word feces and those urges may return.