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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer / Front-End Designer - City of London

£27000 - £33000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End Devel...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Junior PHP Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Guru Careers: Front End Web Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: Our client help leading creative agencies ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot