Book Review: Teaching Voice: Workshops for Young Performers  by Max Hafler  

Published by Nick Hern Books

If you want to know about using the voice well, ask an actor. Whatever field you work in, or want to, somehow you have to learn to speak with clarity and conviction in order to communicate effectively, preferably without damaging your “instrument” and developing voice strain. Actors know more about this than most.

This useful book for teachers, youth theatre leaders, facilitators and anyone who works with young people offers practical strategies for teaching voice. As a teaching manual which suggests ideas for lessons and sessions this isn’t really a book for students as it deals with the physical (“the power of diapraghmatic breath”) and practical basics before moving on to themes such as audibility, rhythm, emphasis and naturalism. And of course the aim is to develop clarity, clarity and more clarity. Good modern voice teaching has, heaven forfend, nothing to do with “speaking proper” or elocution.

Hafler – an experienced actor who now teaches extensively in Ireland – includes plenty of exercises, warm ups and advice about how to use the techniques in the rehearsal room and elsewhere. He also stresses the point that good use of voice goes beyond acting and drama. It is closely linked with personal development for everyone. Mumblers, or people who don’t know how to speak incisively, are not taken as seriously as those who can communicate with panache and precision. “Voice ought to be considered as part of the wide social and educational remit of youth theatre, schools or any liberal arts course” Hafler writes.

“By doing voice work you are literally giving the young person a ‘voice’”.

Reviewed by Susan Elkin