Tuesday 15 May 2012

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning - Maya Angelou

Did you study Shakespeare in school? We did. Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear. I remember receiving my first copy of Shakespeare.  Feeling that this was somehow a momentous occasion. And an equally confusing one, when I actually opened the pages and tried to read.  Nothing really made any sense.

Yet those same confused and dull expressions came to life once pronounced and performed.  Only when the words hit my eardrum, did my heart beat a response.  Did I understand the joy and enduring legacy that is Shakespeare.

Of course, I'm talking about a professional performance.  Our classroom efforts were pretty dismal. But then, having hormonal teenagers read about unsexing a woman and plucking nipples from lips was always going to be a challenge.  Even for Mrs Drake, our very wonderful English teacher.

And, if the truth be told, reading aloud is an art in itself.  I hated it in school. I was so very self-conscious. And awkward. And I was asked to read Lady Macbeth. With the unsexing and the nipple. You may share my pain.

Still, reading aloud is an art, nonetheless.  An art that should be encouraged and honed.  Valued and promoted.  Although, I grant you, it's an art that we are rarely called upon to exercise in real life.  Understandably too, for it wouldn't do for us all to be milling around, wild and unruly, reading out books and magazines for one and all to hear.  Yet, done well, reading aloud is a delight.

Try reading to a child.  Children are simply waiting to be enthralled by a story.  They will not settle for dowdy reading. You have to let go. Release the actor within. 

Remember story-time in primary school?  I can see us now: sitting cross-legged on the floor in the reading corner, transformed by the teacher's tales.  Nothing else mattered in the world.  Just hearing the words dance from her lips, perform before my very mind's eye.  It was enchanting.  Thrilling.  My mind was electrified, my heart fired up. 

It's almost a gift.  From one person to the next.  From the author to the reader to the listener. And on it goes.  From childhood to adulthood, from the library to the theatre.  And back again.  It's a gift that never stops giving. And it costs nothing. Delightful.

1 comment:

  1. I'm re-reading "The Faraway Tree" to my little boy and he loves it. He's totally caught up in the world of Moonface, Silky and the children who share their adventures. Mind you, he is being more demanding of my, ahem, "performance skills" and notices when I forget to go a bit deeper in my range for Moonface, for example. So, I know what you mean! What's really nice though is that he has started reading to me. What goes around...