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Access Accents

Gwyneth Strong and Penny Dyer
Published by: W.W. Norton


Review by: Mel Churcher, July 2008

Access Accents is a new series of accent teaching CDs presented by the actor Gwyneth Strong and dialect coach Penny Dyer for Methuen Drama. There are 6 accents covered by its own CD. So far, the series comprises of: Received Pronunciation (RP), London (Cockney), Yorkshire (North and South), General American, Welsh (South) and Geordie (Newcastle).

Gwyneth Strong introduces each CD and then hands over to Penny Dyer. Penny is an internationally acclaimed dialect coach who is well known for her work in both theatre and film. Recently she coached Helen Mirren in 'The Queen' and Cate Blanchett in 'Elizabeth: The Golden Years'. She has worked on dozens of other movies including, 'The Da Vinci Code', 'Dirty Pretty Things', 'Infamous', and 'Nanny Macphee'.

These CDs are different to most accent tapes available, as they use a variety of methods to help the actor. In an unusual and interesting format, Penny sets the scene for each accent by using historical and geographical references, anecdotes and imagery. These introductions are fascinating in their own right as well as offering useful images for the actor.

For example, for doing the Yorkshire accent, Penny advises you to feel the cold air of the moors hitting the back of your throat, when trying Geordie, 'you have to get your mouth around the hills' and with Cockney your tongue must lie in the bottom of the mouth 'like a slug'. You are also advised to have a lot of breath energy for this accent!

Working with a different well-known actor on each CD, Penny conducts a master class, where you are able to listen in on the actor voicing all the doubts and queries that anyone approaching the accent would be likely to share.

The CD is also full of many sizeable chunks of native speakers of varying ages and types and each recording is discussed by Penny and the actor. Key areas are pointed out and explored and the accent broken down into its components. Tune, rhythm, pronunciation and the emotional attitudes of the speakers are all used to help the actor to work on and perfect a speech with the new accent.

Throughout the session, Penny herself slips in and out of the accent with pitch-perfect accuracy. Thus, you are immersed in the accent for the full hour of the CD. Finally there are practice exercises and an accompanying booklet with full phonetic breakdown of the sounds.

These CDs are a wonderful resource for actors and voice trainers as well as being of interest to anyone who enjoys hearing the wide range of accents and rhythms still alive in our country.

I have only one criticism and that is that there only six available at present. As someone who is often called upon to help with an accent, I hope Penny brings out many more so that I, too, can have her wonderful source material and tips as part of my own resources!



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