Why voice matters in drama

The voice is one of the actor’s most powerful tools, as part and parcel of their characterisation and how the text is interpreted for the audience. Think about situations in which you’re solely reliant on the voice. Clearly body language will add to the effect of what you say but in situations where there is no physical presence – phone conversations or a radio play – the listener is solely dependent on what they hear.

Think about how the actor uses the voice to convey the character’s age, status and mood. Voice can also be used in a more abstract way to create soundscape and atmosphere as well as conveying thoughts, emotions, feelings and ideas.

When writing about the voice, you might be describing a performance you gave and what you tried to achieve and why you used your voice in the way you did. You could be asked to describe the work of an actor in a performance you watched. This might be for feedback in a workshop or the classroom or it might be for a theatrical review.

Can you think of an actor who uses his or her voice particularly effectively? Think about why their voices are so memorable. Remember that projection is essential in a large theatre in front of an audience whilst voice work has to be subtler and quieter on screen. So if the actor is inaudible in a large theatre, this is a big problem. Look at this clip where the actor, Adrian Lester, demonstrates the importance of projecting the voice in a theatre.