Jamaica Inn: Viewers complain over 'mumbling actors'

Image caption,
The BBC has apologised to viewers of Jamaica Inn and altered sound levels ahead of the second instalment

Monday's launch episode of new BBC period drama Jamaica Inn sparked more than 100 complaints, after sound issues left viewers struggling to understand what was being said on screen.

The three-part adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's novel stars former Downton Abbey star Jessica Brown Findlay.

Some viewers said they had to use subtitles to understand the "mumbling".

Comedian Al Murray wrote on Twitter: "Find out what happens next in Jamaica Inn by getting your ears syringed!"

Actor John Challis, who is best known for playing Boycie in Only Fools And Horses, wrote: "Jamaica Inn LOOKS very good but I haven't heard a single word...Either the actors are mumbling or the sound track is faulty."

The BBC later apologised to viewers, claiming the "issues with the sound levels" could not be altered while the drama was on air.

"We are adjusting the dialogue levels in episode two and three to address audience concerns so they can enjoy the rest of the drama and would like to apologise to those viewers who were affected," said a statement, ahead of Tuesday's second instalment.

Those complaining that they had "trouble hearing" included choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips.

Media caption,
Jamaica Inn director Philippa Lowthorpe told BBC 5 live there were "issues"

The drama's own screenplay writer Emma Frost was also quick to react, blaming a technical fault.

"No surprises here - I'm told there was a major sound problem for tonight's broadcast of Jamaica Inn - not surprised you couldn't hear it," wrote Frost on Twitter.

"It sounded like listening through mud... Complaints were relentless - quite rightly. None of (the) production team know what happened with the TX (transmission) sound. It was fine before."

'Muttering actors'

Many viewers also took to the BBC's online message board to complain, with some revealing they had resorted to subtitles and another claiming: "Watched the first half of this and gave up."

"The mumbling was the worst I have heard in a TV drama but it does seem to be very fashionable," added one viewer, echoing BBC director general Tony Hall's comments on "muttering actors" last year.

"I don't want to sound like a grumpy old man, but I also think muttering is something we could have a look at," said Lord Hall last July.

"Actors muttering can be testing - you find you have missed a line... you have to remember that you have an audience."

Jamaica Inn is set in 1821 against the windswept Cornish moors and was directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, whose credits include Call The Midwife.

The drama follows Mary Yellan (Brown Findlay) who is forced to live with her aunt and domineering uncle following the death of her mother.

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