Seems a bit weird doesn't it? But it's true. I am a dyslexic person. (Also dyspraxic but that only comes into play when I'm on stage or screen trying not to bump into the furniture while remembering my lines.) John Hurt famously once said "If you want to utterly ruin a young actor tell him he has a good voice", He'd know I guess. It does seem to be the case though that I have a voice a fair few people enjoy listening to and as such I've gravitated towards voice overs and narration as part of my acting career.
It is something of an irony perhaps that someone with the difficulties Dyslexia brings would be trying to compete in a job that requires impeccable reading and characterisation skills. So much of acting in any form is affected by the ability to pick something up cold and make it live in some way.
Dyslexia can manifest itself in many different ways both subtle and gross. For some people the words seem to jump around on the page, for others non-phonetic spelling is difficult, yet others have problems with sequences of words or letters. I'm not an expert on anything except my own experience and for me the difficulty mainly comes with large blocks of text. I find it hard to keep my place on the page, sometimes my brain will read what it thinks is there rather than what is actually there. Tracey will be able to testify to the number of times I've transposed "a" and "the" in a sentence, or accidentally left out a word, or added one in which isn't there. For me it's like looking at one of those trick drawings that look to some people like a duck and some people like a rabbit. Sometimes I can't see the duck for the rabbit even though it is only ever one or the other. I sometimes have trouble distinguishing spaces and punctuation between the words which is like trying to read a very long hashtag with no capitalisation.
Something like this:
itwasthebestoftimesitwastheworstoftimesitwastheageofwisdomitwastheageoffoolishnessitwastheepochof beliefitwastheepochofincredulityitwastheseasonoflightitwastheseasonofdarknessitwasthespringofhopeit wasthewinterofdespairwehadeverythingbeforeuswehadnothingbeforeuswewereallgoingdirecttoheavenwe wereallgoingdirecttheotherwayinshorttheperiodwassofarlikethepresentperiodthatsomeofitsnoisiest authoritiesinsistedonitsbeingreceivedforgoodorforevilinthesuperlativedegreeofcomparisononly
That was the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities as my brain may perceive it on a bad day. No capital letters, no punctuation, no way of knowing where one word ends and the next begins.
So how do I deal with it? Well there is no easy solution. Practising reading aloud regularly helps. When recording I often highlight a single line or sentence to make it stand out from the rest of the page. Editing is 80% of an audio performance, if I do my job right the listener should never be able to tell that I didn't read everything in the book through perfectly on the first time. The truth is that even the best world class audiobook narrators stumble, stutter and miss things occasionally and every audiobook you've ever heard is a Frankenstein's monster of different takes, cuts, half sentences, inserted pauses, all sorts. Mine are no different and that brings me neatly to the fantastic team/support group I have around me in Circle of Spears.
When I record a chapter of an audiobook. I "First pass" edit it, taking out all the mistakes, pauses, clicks, pops or other extraneous stuff that doesn't need to be there. It is then QCed (Quality Controlled), by Tracey usually, who then sends me back the corrections in a spreadsheet. These often include the lines I have read incorrectly, any times I've missed the meaning of a sentence or put the emphasis on the wrong part of the sentence from what the punctuation would dictate and any other errors. In an ideal situation at this point I would then rerecord all the mistakes and that would be an end to it but often this can take more than one pass in order to get all of them corrected, especially if I am working in isolation as I often am. I have attempted to return the favour for my fellow members of Circle of Spears in the past but after multiple failed attempts it was agreed to focus my efforts elsewhere.
It is disheartening sometimes to feel like the way your brain works renders you inadequate for certain jobs. But difficult though it is not to sometimes, that's the wrong way to think about it. Everyone is different, we all learn in different ways and we all excel at different things. I am in a very fortunate position to be working with a team who understand fully what the difficulties I face are and with whom I have devised a system to overcome them for the most part. If you are reading this then it is quite likely that either Mark or Tracey have proofread it for me before I've hit the post button (it was me - Mark!). It's similar with a lot of the emails or official correspondence I send.
I can absolutely understand why someone with these sorts for difficulties would think twice before exposing themselves to an environment where they would have to compete with other people who don't have them but there are in fact plenty of dyslexic actors out there, damn talented ones too. Google them. One of the reasons I wanted to get into audiobooks was that I am a voracious consumer of them myself. Storytelling in one form or another is sort of our business as actors and while I may never rise to the heights of Stephen Fry or Simon Callow, Scott Brick, Roy Dotrice, Jonathan Davis or so many others I am glad I had the courage and the support enough to do it.
Are you dyslexic, or do you know someone who is? (I bet you do) Leave a comment. I'd be really interested to know if there are others in a similar situation to me.