Emma Watson’s voice is trailing her face

It made all the papers! In September 2014 Emma Watson spoke at the United Nations about gender equality and the he-for-she campaign. The speech was universally described as ‘moving’. Shall we see whether we agree?

Before we reach Ms Watson we see and hear her introducer making a mistake that I have previously identified in this blog. If you are at the lectern you should never join in with the applause. It feels right, but looks and sounds wrong.

Oh dear, how vulnerable her voice sounds! She is very nervous indeed. It is understandable, but I am anxious to know whether this is merely a manifestation of hump, or whether it is more deeply rooted.

The worst of the vulnerability recedes in around 3 minutes, which is par for a hump, but now there’s something else bothering me and I can’t put my finger on it. She does not look down at the lectern, but nor is she shooting from the hip. This is a learnt script: I’d stake big money on that. I’m not surprised: she is after all an actor. The learnt performance has also been thoroughly rehearsed, but again that is what actors do.

Quite often I find I can identify problems with speakers by closing my eyes and letting my hearing operate without visual interference. I try this, and am quite alarmed by the result. She now sounds monotonous, frankly boring, and the voice is fragile.

This is what has been bothering me. Visually she is conveying a very strong and expressive picture; but the sound, when taken alone, is frighteningly weak.

I am trying to resist a facile, knee-jerk analysis along the lines of film-actor-hasn’t-learnt-proper-stage-voice-projection, though there could be something in that. At any rate, her voice is nothing like as expressive as her face.  This is a pity.

It is laudable when young people, having made a success in one thing, branch out and challenge themselves in other directions. Emma Watson is to be congratulated, but I hope she doesn’t stop working at this particular skill because she has a way to go. Also, thus far, her work has been misdirected: learning a script is absolutely not the right way to prepare for a speech. If someone has told her it is, that someone needs to do something more suited to their talents.

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