Wallace and Gromit help US actors speak the Yorkshire way

In California you are more likely to hear someone exclaim, "Cool, dude", than "Trouble at t'mill", but that could be about to change.

In preparation for the Los Angeles production of Alan Bennett's The History Boys, the American cast has been told to watch The Full Monty, Monty Python and Wallace and Gromit to perfect their Sheffield accents.

Set in a grammar school in the Yorkshire city in 1983, Bennett's award-winning play tells the story of a class of boys preparing for the Oxford and Cambridge entrance exam.

When the play transferred from London's National Theatre to Broadway, it retained most of the original cast, including Richard Griffiths, pictured below, as the overweight but inspiring English teacher Hector, a role he reprised for the 2006 film version.

While the production at the Ahmanson Theatre is directed by an Englishman, Paul Miller, union rules and immigration issues mean the students are played by actors from the United States.

A dialect coach, J B Blanc, has also been brought in to help them capture the Yorkshire accent. Mr Blanc, a coach, actor and director who grew up in rural North Yorkshire, has led the young actors on an unusual training scheme, including watching The Full Monty, the 1997 Oscar-winning film set in Sheffield and starring Robert Carlyle about six unemployed male steelworkers who form a male striptease act.

Mr Blanc also introduced them to "The Four Yorkshiremen", the Monty Python sketch in which four men attempt to outdo one another with tales of their hellish childhood, insisting in broad Yorkshire accents: "You were lucky ... There were 150 of us living in t' shoebox in t' middle o' road."

Most importantly, however, Mr Blanc used Wallace and Gromit to explain to the American cast how their mouths would have to move to pronounce Yorkshire vowels. Although the Aardman Animations characters actually live in Wigan in Lancashire, Wallace, who is voiced by Peter Sallis, has an accent from the Holme Valley of Yorkshire.

Mr Blanc told The Los Angeles Times: "An accent involves not only the sounds one has to make but the geography, the history.

"The problem they have is, this accent involves them using muscles they've never had to use. The American accent is lateral, flat; the back of the mouth doesn't have to work hard. Yorkshire is more horizontal, rounded at the back of the throat. There isn't a vowel sound that is similar to an American vowel sound."

The History Boys, which opened at the National Theatre in 2004, won the Olivier Award for best play. When it transferred to Broadway in 2006, it won six Tony Awards. Mr Miller said it was often easier to teach American actors to speak in a Yorkshire accent than British actors who speak with a different regional accent.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Report Writer / Reporting Analyst

£25 - 30k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Report Writer / Reporting Analyst is nee...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager / Account Executive

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A German speaking Account Manager ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...