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24 September 2014
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The Edwardians 
Joan Washington in How The Edwardians Spoke

The Edwardians – The Birth Of Now



Entertainment week


How The Edwardians Spoke (BBC Four)

 

Our understanding of Edwardian Britain is dominated by images. We can see it in flickering footage of the time, in the formal family portraits.

 

Apart from a few famous voices, the people themselves remain silent. We can see the Edwardians, but we can't hear them.

 

But a remarkable discovery has been made which for the first time gives voice to the Edwardians. And it has been found in the most unlikely place - Germany.

 

Hundreds of recordings have come to light which reveal the accents and dialects of British prisoners-of-war held in German camps and recorded during the First World War.

 

This archive presents a unique glimpse into the way ordinary men spoke at the time.

 

Joan Washington, a voice coach and expert in British accents, sets out to tell the story of these recordings in this documentary.

 

She returns to the hometowns of some of the prisoners, to meet their families and play them the recordings. How does it feel to hear one of your relatives speaking to you from nearly a century ago?

 

Listening with an expert ear to the differences between the voices of the prisoners and their families, Joan explores how far all our accents have changed over the century.

 

Along the way she uncovers the intriguing characters who masterminded the recordings.

 

As the war raged Wilhelm Doegen, an expert in technical sound recording, realised that on his doorstep was a captive resource of prisoners whose speech and music would be fascinating for his research.

 

Along with Alois Brandl, an Austrian academic specialising in British accent and dialect, he set out to record the voices of prisoners-of-war in more than 70 camps.

 

Brandl's work before the war had also brought him into contact with Thomas Hardy, himself fascinated by rural dialect, and Henry Sweet, a leading phonetician thought to be one of the models for Henry Higgins in Pygmalion.

 

The recordings were meticulously catalogued, and miraculously survived the devastation of Berlin during the Second World War. By chance an author researching local dialect recently stumbled across them.

 

One of the texts often read by the prisoners was The Prodigal Son. This story of a man returning home to his family was particularly poignant given the loss of life during the First World War. For the lucky ones who did come home, the horrors of the war often overshadowed the rest of their lives.

 

Following their recording, for the best part of a century the voices of the prisoners-of-war fell silent. But now some have been heard by their relatives and can shed light on a world of changing voices through the 20th century.

 

Music Hall Meltdown (BBC Four)

 

Capturing essence of music hall, but with a contemporary twist, this 90-minute extravaganza hosted by Phill Jupitus and Marcus Brigstocke showcases the best of much-loved and some little-known talent in one spectacular show.

 

Featuring Harry Enfield, Jo Caulfield, Milton Jones, Madness and Stuart & Barry and more.

 

Marie Lloyd (BBC Four)

 

Jessie Wallace, known to millions as colourful Kat Slater in EastEnders, and recently seen in BBC One drama A Class Apart, plays the lead in a major new drama for BBC Four detailing the turbulent life and times of music hall darling Marie Lloyd.

 

London's East End at the turn of the 20th century was the birthplace and home of music hall, and nobody personified the energy, bawdiness and humour of the halls more than Marie Lloyd, who became a legend in her own lifetime.

 

She sang of a life of lewd behaviour and moonlight flits, but musical fiction paled next to the facts of her own outrageous life. Marie Lloyd depicts the star's rise to fame set against her troubled private life.

 

Famed for her generosity and good humour, she scandalised respectable society with her rebellious attitude and with a string of love affairs, which were salaciously covered in the tabloid papers.

 

The film features some of Marie Lloyd's most famous songs including My Old Man Said Follow The Van and her theme song A Little Of What You Fancy Does You Good, painting a poignant portrait of public success and personal sadness.

 

Jessie Wallace says: "Marie Lloyd was pretty outrageous, outspoken and very talented, a really special person who was way ahead of her time. This is my dream role. I'm so excited. I just keep pinching myself."

 

Mark Redhead, Executive Producer, Hat Trick, adds: "This film explores the private and public life of one of the first real stars. Marie Lloyd was funny, sexy, loveable, naughty and hugely charismatic, and Jessie Wallace was born to play her."

 

BBC Four Controller Janice Hadlow says: "It's a real coup to have Jessie Wallace as the lead in this exciting new drama – a major component of our Edwardian season. She will bring something very special to the role as the greatest music hall star of all time."

 

Marie Lloyd also stars Richard Armitage (Robin Hood, The Vicar Of Dibley) as Percy Courtenay; Matthew Marsh (Hawking, The Thick of It) as Alec Hurley; Tom Payne (Skins, Waterloo Road) as Bernard Dillon; and Lee Williams (New Street Law, Teachers) as Freddie with Shaun Parkes, Angus Barnett, Amanda Root and Annette Badland.

 

Filming took place on location in London's East End and Bayswater. The 80-minute film is a Hat Trick Production for BBC Four, directed by James Hawes (Doctor Who) and produced by Rhonda Smith (Teachers, Low Winter Sun). The drama was commissioned by Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction, and the Executive Producers are Mark Redhead for Hat Trick Productions and Richard Fell for the BBC.


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