The Tat Man’s Voice

In writing any play, the voices in which the characters speak, their authenticity and naturalness, are a very important factor in helping to make the world of the play believable, for both audience and actors. In a one-man play, such as the one I’m working on now, the voice, it seems to me, is of paramount importance. The only character the audience have to relate to is this one onstage. And this character is not speaking to other characters, but directly to them. So it’s extremely important that the voice in which the character speaks, the way in which he speaks to them, is a voice they want to listen to.  As the writer, I need to find this voice, hear it speak to me in my head, not as my voice but as his. Getting this right, at this stage, is more important than what stories he tells.  And to get it right, there are questions that need to be addressed:

Who does the Tat Man think the audience are?

Where does the Tat Man think he is?

Why is the Tat Man talking to them, and telling them his stories?

These questions should be in the audience’s mind too, and the play needs to answer those questions.  And one of the ways they’re answered is through the character’s voice.  How he speaks to them is directly related to those questions.  And the need the Tat Man has to speak to the audience, and to tell them his stories – those particular stories and no other – and the risk to him (and to the audience) involved in his telling them – are what creates the drama of the piece. Whatever stories he tells, the drama of the piece is the drama of the Tat Man.  The audience need to be involved in that drama, to care about it.  Because, in a very real sense, the audience are the other characters in the play, and they will be willing to take on that role if they believe in the character who’s talking to them from the stage.  (The stage of course should cease to become a stage, and should become the place in which the character believes himself to be).

All this will work if the voice is right.

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