No bad imitations please, we’re British.
I was so pleased “The King’s Speech” won a hatful of Oscars a few years back; I hadn’t enjoyed a trip to the cinema so much since “Invictus” (of which more anon). One of the real delights, among many in the film, was Guy Pearce as Edward VIII. Yes, I know he was actually born in England, but he’s Aussie raised and his English accent was spot on.
You see, this matters to us Brits. We’re emotionally scarred from childhood, having been forced to listen to Dick Van Dyke’s appalling “cockney” accent in Mary Poppins. We don’t have a problem with non-Brits playing British roles (Meryl Streep can play Maggie Thatcher because we know she can do the voice, as she showed in “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”) but not everyone has got the knack.
For every Glenn Close, Johnny Depp or Sean Astin (really nailed a Gloucestershire accent at times in LOTR) there’s a Kevin Costner (just the thought of his Robin Hood makes me cringe). Trouble is, for a small island, we’ve a huge variety of accents and dialects, some of them very specific to a small area. So even if the poor actor or actress involved gets a British accent spot on they may not get the correct one.
I’m not saying this doesn’t work in reverse. There must be times Americans have wanted to take a big stick to some of our lads and lasses trying to act New York or West Coast, although I understand that people admired Hugh Laurie’s House. And I’m sure there’s plenty of Australians who will never forgive James Coburn for his attempts at an antipodean accent in “The Great Escape”.
However, I have to make a special mention of Matt Damon as François Pienaar in “Invictus”. Great film, great rugby (and how cross would I have been if they’d stuffed that up, although lifting in the line out wasn’t allowed back then?) and best of all a good accent. See, people can do it if they try…
Amateur detectives Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith seem to have nothing more taxing on their plate than locating a missing wooden cat and solving the dilemma of seating thirteen for dinner. But one of the guests brings a conundrum: a young woman has been found dead, and her boyfriend is convinced she was murdered. The trouble is, nobody else agrees.
Investigation reveals that several young people in the local area have died in strange circumstances, and rumours abound of poisonings at the hands of Lord Toothill, a local mysterious recluse. Toothill’s angry, gun-toting gamekeeper isn’t doing anything to quell suspicions, either.
But even with a gun to his head, Jonty can tell there’s more going on in this surprisingly treacherous village than meets the eye. And even Orlando’s vaunted logic is stymied by the baffling inconsistencies they uncover. Together, the Cambridge Fellows must pick their way through gossip and misdirection to discover the truth.
As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes, MLR and Cheyenne.
Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series of Edwardian romantic mysteries was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet for readers/writers of GLBT fiction. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.
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