Inside the mind of an actor (literally)
How does an actor engage with the part they are playing? Fiona Shaw undergoes a brain scan while reciting TS Eliot to help shed some light on the mystery
Tuesday 24 November 2009
The experiment is the latest in which Scott has explored the different ways our brains control our voices. "In the past, I've worked with impressionists to see what happens in their brains when they impersonate people's voices. The literature in psychology on faces is huge, but there's a lot less work on voices – partly because when we talk about speech, we go straight to focusing on language itself.
"Fiona is going to perform some lines from a text she's familiar with [Shaw performed Eliot's epic poem 13 years ago in a production directed by Deborah Warner, and will reprise that performance at Wilton's music hall in London next month]. She's conveying different people by the way they speak, and we're interested in finding out which parts of her brain are involved here."
The results will be displayed in new exhibition on identity at the Wellcome Trust. "Voices simultaneously convey a lot of different things about us," says Scott. "If you speak to someone on the phone you can tell if they're a man or a woman, roughly how old they are, roughly where they come from in the country, if they're ill, if they're in a bad mood – that's all there. But also voices change a great deal so I sound different speaking to you than if I'd just been arrested.
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