June Spencer


#1

Archers matriarch June Spencer, 98, scolds show’s lazy youngsters

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tuesday february 6 2018
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Archers matriarch June Spencer, 98, scolds show’s lazy youngsters

She first played Peggy Woolley in the 1950 pilot episode of The Archers so June Spencer knows a thing or two about radio drama.

And it appears that the 98-year-old actress is not entirely impressed with the quality of her young cast-mates, implying that they need to spend more time working on their scripts and enunciation.

She first played Peggy Woolley in the 1950 pilot episode of The Archers so June Spencer knows a thing or two about radio drama.

And it appears that the 98-year-old actress is not entirely impressed with the quality of her young cast-mates, implying that they need to spend more time working on their scripts and enunciation.

Spencer, the only remaining member of the original cast, revealed that older hands on the Radio 4 soap had resorted to helping their junior colleagues to master voice techniques
She first played Peggy Woolley in the 1950 pilot episode of The Archers so June Spencer knows a thing or two about radio drama.

And it appears that the 98-year-old actress is not entirely impressed with the quality of her young cast-mates, implying that they need to spend more time working on their scripts and enunciation.

Spencer, the only remaining member of the original cast, revealed that older hands on the Radio 4 soap had resorted to helping their junior colleagues to master voice techniques they never learnt at drama school.

“I find we can teach the younger members of the cast a bit. I don’t think many of them have had speech training — and in radio it’s all about the voice,” she said in an interview with Radio Times.

“If you can’t be heard by people with impaired hearing, like me, or those with inferior radios, then what’s the point?”

Spencer, who said that she wants to remain with the show until she is 100, won plaudits for her performances in an Alzheimer’s plotline that culminated with the dementia-related death of her fictional second husband, Jack.

However, the Ambridge matriarch suggested that her intense preparation for demanding scenes was not always matched by younger cast members.

“I work on the scripts and rehearse them as soon as I get them. And if I’ve got difficult stuff, then I do a lot of work on them,” she said.

“But I see some of the younger ones marking up their scripts just before the read-through and I think, ‘You haven’t worked on it!’ ”

Spencer’s words of advice will cheer listeners and viewers who complain that modern dramas are being ruined by mumbling. Last year Dame Judi Dench criticised the apathy and laziness of up-and-coming actors who did not work on their vocal techniques.

Spencer also lamented that the long-standing Archers policy of not reading a cast list at the end of each episode meant she never enjoyed the public recognition that a 60-year soap stalwart might expect. While the stars of television dramas are identified in show credits, the names behind much-loved Archers voices are not revealed to listeners. Only key off-air staff such as the writer, director and agricultural story editor are singled out by name as the theme tune fades.

“It would be nice to be acknowledged, actually,” Spencer said. “Particularly when you have an emotional episode, such as Peggy’s goodbye to Jack. I worked a lot on the line where Peggy says, ‘Goodbye, my darling’. And, at the end, they read out who it’s been written by and who the editor is, but there’s no mention of the actress.” This disconnect between listener and actor was exacerbated by the show’s fan mail policy, Spencer said.

The veteran actress said it was a pity that letters were dealt with by the programme’s office, rather than the stars. “If people write to a character, they want a reply from the character,” she said.

Peggy ran The Bull pub with her first husband, Jack Archer, before he succumbed to alcoholism. Arnold Peters, the actor who played her second husband, Jack Woolley, died in 2013 after suffering from Alzheimer’s, the condition that also claimed the life of his character.

Spencer played Peggy in the first ever Archers episode but took time away in the 1950s, returning to play another character, Rita Flynn, before taking back her original role.

Edited to de-muddle - on my phone so a bit tricky! Hope it makes sense


#2

Thank you Marj.

Gosh she likes a grumble doesn’t she … he grumbles. At least it reads like the chips on each shoulder are evenly weighted.

Though she has an undeniable point regarding most of the younger actors and, of course, she actually SEES the lack of professional preparation we all merely suspected.

Mind you, & at 98 why should she care, way to go with the team spirit June.


#3

What she’s saying is that some at least of the youngsters are inadequate both technically and professionally, and isn’t that what we’ve been saying since the yoof started to dominate SL’s?

Further, their failure to prepare for recording shows a contempt for the audience, an attitude that comes from the top.

Isn’t it curious that The Guardian chose to omit the really meaty content in their story - unless they’re keeping the acting observations back for another article; it’s all about page views.


#4

No comment about the quality of the scripts, though, which is interesting.


#5

I suppose she had to draw line somewhere :thinking:


#6

Which I don’t remember being an issue before SOC issued his “drama school only” decree. Radio does require a certain skill set, which I suspect is somewhat neglected because of the glamour (and money) offered by TV and film.

Over here, the American modular system is being imposed on academic institutions. I can understand how it might work for (some areas of) science and technology, but it has led to all sorts of problems for those trying to teach, in particular, arts subjects, where an understanding of historical development is essential–an understanding that relies naturally on a (more or less) linear course structure. Is the same happening in the UK? (I’m fairly sure I heard an artist bemoaning the fact that life drawing was now optional on an art course.) If so, I can see how some of the skills required for radio might be skipped by students eager to get on to the fame and fortune bandwagon.


#7

Yes. She still has 18m or so to go to reach her 100th birthday whilst still there.

I do appreviate she’s correct, very much so. That is a very poor commentary on how the programme is run. If actors, of any age or experience think marking tbeir scripts as tjey saunter into the set think this is right then
i. That is unprofessional to do
ii. It’s very poor from the producer to let it happen

There are many young aspiring actors who would give their eye-teeth for these roles (all to often guven to the children of established thespians … not nepotism though, of course). They owe it to them to ensure they do the parts well. They also owe it to their bosses and to the listeners.

But if the producers don’t notice, or care then they are doing the actors no favours, long term.


#8

Which will continue to be the case if they keep appointing TV wannabes as editor.


#9

Also, if you only hire people from drama schools for your radio programme, you’re getting people who’ve been to drama schools and either (a) want to dedicate their careers to radio (probably not many of them) or (b) can’t get enough work elsewhere.


#10

But it’s an avenue to show their skill and their professionalism. If they fail to take it … their problem.


#11

The existence of the Carleton Hobbs award suggests that some, at least take it seriously. Tellingly, the two most recent recipients that joined TA were Emerald O’Hanrahan (Emma Mk II) and Piers Wehner (Jude), two of the 2009 laureates. They are streets ahead of more recent additions to the cast. The link between the award and TA seems to have been broken with VW’s departure, a reflection on the fact that the successors weren’t from a radio background? Whitburn might have lost the plot towards the end (she was in post too long) but she did some excellent work - and not just in TA. I have an excellent adaptation of Sayers’ Whose Body that she directed in 1987. (If anyone wants a copy, just yell!)