Talk Propa

Devised and directed by Caitlin Evans
The Vaults (studio) Leake Street

Talk Propa Credit: Hugo Bainbridge
Rebecca Charlton and Hannah Clifford Credit: Hugo Bainbridge
Rebecca Charlton and Hannah Clifford Credit: Hugo Bainbridge

Step into any gathering of the powerful in the arts and you are likely to find few Northern accents. Maybe some of these people “lost” their Northern accents, or perhaps it's just that the most able people have to come from the South.

A 2014 study of the response of people to Northern accents compared with their response to “received pronunciation, while looking at photos of female models” found that the accent “significantly affected the intelligence rating”.

Shybairn’s Talk Propa playfully challenges the negative stereotypes of Northern accents. Two boiler-suited actors, Hannah Clifford and Rebecca Charlton, illustrate the difficulties actors with Northern accents can have at auditions. As one of them reads a piece, the other constantly interrupts with corrections to the pronunciation.

Asking the audience to identify themselves if they come from the North, they volunteer a few of them to help make the gravy, assumed by some to be a staple Northern diet and of course in making the gravy, the performers dump into the mix, Yorkshire puddings, a short skirt, a tracksuit and that important Northern lump of coal.

Most of the show involves clowning that mocks the stereotypes, but there are quieter moments that include, video footage back-screened of a boat moving through the water, a symbol of the Northerner moving South, leaving the shipyards, the heritage, the families, that created their culture.

Talk Propa is a fast, often humorous show, with a serious point to make about the negative stereotypes of Northern accents. It’s always fun and it never lost the audience’s attention, but I couldn't help wishing for less of the broad knockabout humour such as the play fight with the gravy and wanting instead the inclusion of something more solid on the terrible consequences of such prejudice to so many people and communities.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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