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Voice and Speech in the TheatreVoice and Speech in the Theatre

J. Clifford Turner (Edited by Jane Boston)
Publisher: Methuen Drama; 6 edition
Paperback: 176 pages
ISBN-10: 0713681888 ISBN-13: 978-0713681888


Reviewed by Mel Churcher, November 2007

I entered Drama School as a gauche seventeen year old in 1964, the same year that the greatly respected voice teacher, Clifford Turner, died. But his book, "Voice and Speech in the Theatre", first published in 1950, was my set book and as I look at it now, I see all the scribbles and annotations from my first voice training.

Clifford Turner was a lover of words and language and a supremely good voice teacher but when he trained, corsets being not so long out of fashion, the emphasis was on making the ribs do the hard work. He was an exponent of the 'rib-reserve' method of training, which has fallen out of favour in this country, although it is still widely used in the United States.

Whatever attitude one might have to it now, 'rib-reserve' training gave us a generation of wonderful actors with strong reliable voices used to the vast auditoriums of our provincial repertory theatres. One highly respected voice practitioner once said to me that, although she would not use rib-reserve as a training method, it is the technique that many trained actors end up using. Whatever one thinks about the method, I feel it is important to retain the source material of any voice work by a great practitioner, so I was not sure how I felt when I heard that this book was being re-worked for the fifth edition.

Now Jane Boston has edited the sixth edition and I think she has done a very clever job of making the work current and relevant by giving us updates and elucidations, whilst at the same time re-printing the main parts of the original work. Clifford Turner's book covers the voice in theory and practice, the tone, the note, the word, and the voice in action. Jane has written an excellent introduction, and added her own comments and exercises based on contemporary practice. She has also included a warm up based on Turner's work compiled by Malcolm Morrison, who edited the fifth edition. Thus, one can see not only Clifford Turner's original work, but also how to integrate it safely into a modern training.

Apart from any reservations about the breathing methods in their original form, the rest of the book is as relevant now as it has ever been and extraordinarily modern in its approach. Reading it again, I am surprised by how many of his exercises have remained in my repertoire. His approach to the whole reason for voice training, I wholeheartedly applaud. I quote, "The voice, then, must not be projected for its own sake, but solely in order to project the thought. This being so, the closer the relationship between the mental processes and utterance, the better."

Dame Peggy Ashcroft wrote the forward to Clifford Turner's original book and wrote, "Mr. Turner's aim has been to provide a much-needed, up-to-date, and practical book for students". This timely and excellent edition of Clifford Turner's book should put it back where it belongs, on the bookshelf of every drama student so that we continue to hear their thoughts in the back rows of every auditorium.



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