Authie et Mi

Fly you fools

29th May 2014

At the beginning of the year I was approached by a member of the Arras Tourist Board who was a friend of Juan Conchillo the director of the Béthune, Son et Lumière. This year the team wanted to present a spectacle recounting some of Béthune’s history during the Great War.

It had been decided to tell the story through a number of scenes acted out but with a commentary given by Mike, a British pilot who had been shot down over the town in 1918 (Which is what had happened to Mick Mannock VC).

The ghost of Mike would approach Charlotte a young schoolgirl after her class in 2014. Then by a touch of Doctor Who, he would take her back to 1914 and help explain what she was seeing.

The problem for the organisers was to find somebody who could speak French well enough to carry the part, but who retained enough of his own accent for people to realise that he was a foreigner. My name was put forward and having spoken with Juan I was sent the script.

You watch the ‘Behind the scenes’ on DVDs but until you have to try you never realise just how much a slight inflexion in the voice can change the atmosphere. I was given a certain amount of freedom to change the words where I felt that it grated with the character’s nationality or even just to add a little extra information — that I almost know what I am talking about when it comes to things Great War, helped avoid a couple of possible errors.

Some of it was quite difficult to get my tongue around and I spent a number of nights going over the words out loud. That much of the script was in Ch’ti wasn’t helpful. I can get by in patois but some of it was quite beyond me and I had to ask for explanations.

The only two characters who were going to be recorded were Mike the pilot and Charlotte the cuttie. We met up one Saturday morning in a recording studio and got down to work. I was pleased to find that there were a couple of phrases that she just couldn’t get right but the recordings went very well and just over an hour later we were listening to our efforts.

The night of the 29th May following the Water Festival we all gathered to watch the show. Aye, you could nit-pick the finer points of uniform or whatever and I liked the fact that all of the ‘English’ soldiers were in fact Highlanders in kilts but, whatever. The world did not collapse.

I had to take my photos beforehand as the show was begun after sundown. I managed a couple of short videos however to give a flavour of what went on.

A good night was had by all and the crowd seemed to appreciate the effort that had been put into the show. I met up with the chap who was playing the role of Mike the ghost and it only took him a moment to realise that the person he was talking to was ‘his voice’.

The most important change to the script was to replace “Let’s Go” by “Allons-y”, after all my character was playing Doctor Who !

Posted : 29 May 2014