Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Secret Adversary: Dialect & Slang

Ray with dialect coach Chuck Richie
This evening's rehearsal was for dialect. The Secret Adversary is an international thriller, so there are numerous dialects. Not only Standard British, but various working class English accents, Scottish and Irish. There are Russians and Germans, and one very modern young American.

Of course, when I say modern, I mean modern in the 1920s. The story takes place before the Jazz Age really got swinging (and it did swing on both sides of the pond) in that moment referred to once as the "Great Silence." However, we will be taking some liberties there, too.

Agatha Christie was keen to introduce some exciting, fun characters into her second novel. She felt that her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was peopled with a number of unpleasant individuals - not least of whom  was Hercule Poirot, one she personally always despised.

Adapting the work into this script I had great fun including many of the colorful turns of phrase she put into the mouths of her young adventurers. She went even further with the American, Mr. Julius Hersheimmer. Almost every line of his includes some bit of period slang.

However, over the course of the novel she did use many terms more than once, and while idiom doesn't become established without repetition, and that repetition can often be humorous in itself (see: the rule of three) I found a couple words and phrases were overdone and took great joy in finding authentic replacements.

Here are just a few examples of 1920s slang we will be including:

Bully for you! - good for you!
Put me wise - tell me the whole story
Put me on the trolley - see: put me wise
Jake - all right (e.g., "everything's jake!")
Turned up your toes - died
Kale - money
Swell - n. fellow with a lot of kale
Chunk of lead - an unattractive woman of a certain age
Brick - a reliable man (see also: duck)
Gold-digger - a woman who does not choose to associate with any broke fellows
We take a lot of killing. - we are unstoppable

The Secret Adversary opens February 16 at Talespnner Children's Theatre.