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Episode 10 - The Audiobook Narrator - David Thorpe

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Nic – Testing, one two one two

Leah - We wish you a merry podcast… plogcast

N There's a warm-up for you, shall we introduce with that?

L Yes, okay!

Both (singing) We wish you a merry plogcast, we wish you a merry plogcast, we wish you a merry plogcast and a happy… happy VO Social North.. North? Norrrthhh

L Are you harmonising?

N I was trying to harmonise!

L Well, I’ll just sing as comes naturally and you can work around me.

N Great.

L Yes.

Both (Tunefully and with studied elegance) Noo-ooo—rrrr-th

L Oh that was lovely, yes, as long as I only have to do one note.

N Does anyone out there do jingles? Cause we're definitely available…

L Haha yes! Or, slash, we could probably do with one.

N Yes, ok, yes, somebody could do us one...

L Do a jingle! We could have a lovely jingle for our plogs.

N Yeah amazing!

L This is very Christmassy… because of it being so Christmassy

N Yeah, and there's snow on the ground outside

L Yes! Yes, ice; frosty snow and my kid looked at somebody's very well lit house the other day and said “Mummy! Look at all the Christmas on that house!” so yeah that's - that's life now, everything is Christmas; there's an advent calendar - that's the first time I've really done that…

N And how is it going with Toby understanding one chocolate a day cuz even I find that hard

L He's managing it! What I'm actually struggling with more is how to approach the Father Christmas thing, because I look at his trusting little face and I don't want to lie to him but everybody else is so busy lying to him I can't then go against that, so I'm stuffed by society here.

N So would you rather not have the illusion of Santa Claus?

L Yeah! Lets all be happy together and celebrate traditional things without - like - lying to our children. That's how I feel about it; I didn't realize that I would do but….

N Interesting, interesting - George isn't getting anything from us this year. He's not gonna remember! I thought I might get him some gin? I think he'd really like that.

L Oh yes!

N I did buy him a really nice pair of shoes that he’s gonna really enjoy looking

at me in – but like, he's already got things from his grandparents so you know yeah whatever..

L We've got a one present rule…


L Which means that in the run-up to Christmas, Grandma keeps coming round with

just “things she thought he might like” – nothing to do with anything! Not a Christmas thing!

N But it's Christmas Eve!

L I’m coming across as a right scrooge here, sorry everybody. I do actually love Christmas very much

N Yeah Leah! Let’s vomit some Christmas on you!

L Yeah! Well, we will be posting a photograph of ourselves looking exceptionally Christmasy with this plog…

N I know how you can get round the Santa thing...

L Go.

N Make Rich dress up as Santa and then he knows that all those presents come from Santa but Santa is also his dad

L And he’d be able to spot that it was him…

N Yeah!

L Oh! That might be the answer.

N So. We're here in the booth today and we're both feeling a little bit under par... me because I've been up all night with a teething monster I mean baby - Leah because she was out on the rangdangler last night – absolutely destroyed.

L Yeh, it’s not really – I don’t now what came over me really but there was free amaretto…

N It’d be foolish not to… So this is kind of an example of what happens to your voice after fatigue and dehydration…

L (sexily, low) are you enjoying it?

N I'm feeling very, very sensual. Very unsupported, and currently drinking honey.

L Yes, well, good and so… the main thing is, we've got our Christmas social coming up on the16th which is imminent frankly

N Literally a week yesterday

L Yes, a week yesterday - or a week today - or a week… well, it depends on when you're listening to this. It might be now! Now might be the 16th! Come quick! We're already there! Ahem. We want you to be as Christmassy as you can be…

N Like, imagine Toby seeing you and going “look at all the Christmas on that voiceover artist!”

L Exactly right!

N We call that a callback in comedy terms…

L Yes! Yes I am finding it hilarious.

N Good!

[Mad cackling]

L So, what that might mean is you might come dressed as some Christmas, or you might bring some Christmas with you - we've got the all clear from the pub that we can bring

our own festive snacks

N Yeah, so for example that might be a cheese straw, they’re very festive.

L Or it might be an organic, whole, vegan, non-wheat…

N …non-dairy, non-nuts…

L sugar free, Christmas tree shaped mince pie… you can do whatever comes naturally, if for Christmas your particular thing is a bag of lettuce then do that… it might be… we might have a lot of lettuce to eat but bring it bring it… bring your Christmasness.

N Maybe your Christmas thing is chicken wings from a very, very popular worldwide brand of chicken shop if you want to bring those, come straight to me!

L Yeah, if that’s your bag we are not going to stop you. So, yes, that's the plan. Bring the Christmas - we will also, of course, bring the Christmas - we'll bring lots of Christmas too.

N I might spend the whole of the session TALKING LIKE SANTA CLAUS… still available…

L Yeah yes yep.. for next year…

N Christmas is so over in voiceover world. I'm on to like St Patrick's Day, Easter, all over

it. Christmas? Pah! That's so yesterday.

L And so! Now we bring to you our next episode of our super special “Plog Meets” series where Plog goes out into the world and meets professionals from across the voice-over and voice actor spectrum.

N Plog really gets around these days.

L That's right! This time round Plog went to go and see David Thorpe who is an award-winning audio book reader, he’s twice been a member of the BBC radio drama company - such a lovely bloke - he's a teacher he teaches all sorts of voice-over stuff, he’s in commercials… he does everything. You may recognise his voice - you may not recognise his voice, but you'll certainly recognise his voice if you've been listening to the little snippets of the interview that we've been posting on social media lately

N Nice.

L But we've been saving for this particular bit - the actual plog… (rustly sounds) I’ve got such a rustly jacket!

N Voiceover tip number one, no shell-suit-like material

L Right, I’ve taken it off.

N So quiet now!

L I know yes! I’m barely here. Yes, I've been saving the audiobook part of the interview in which he talks how to get into audiobooks, a little bit of voice care, a little bit of technique lots of interesting things to do with audiobooks and I am now going to play that for Nic for the very first time - and for you for the very first time...


Dave - One of the things with an audiobook - and hopefully people listening are a bit forgiving of this - is that you're playing all the characters so sometimes you know you have to do an accent that you're not brilliant at and sometimes it's - you know - you might be doing seven characters and six of them you can do fine but one of them - you're not so strong on, and you know the best thing to do if you find yourself in that situation is… not to look at the Audible reviews of your work, that’s probably the best thing!

L Have you looked?!

D Oh gosh yeah - my favourite one was this guy said “Sum up David Thorpe’s voice in three

Words” and his three words were “Patronising”, “British” “Southern”

L Noooooooo! I’m so sorry! That’s painful.

D Quite funny though.

L You said earlier that it’s blown up - the industry’s blown up in the last five years and it absolutely has ‘cause everybody's going everywhere with their earphones in, they’ve got devices they can download onto so not only audiobooks but also like - serialized fiction podcasts and all that - it's a huge industry. But audiobooks specifically; people always say “oh you know just get in touch the RNIB, they always want readers” but actually I’ve found it’s quite hard…

D No, [chuckling] they've got a really stringent audition process; they're really picky - I mean rightly so because they they can be. I mean the RNIB do pay, so that's fair enough as well.

L So, give me some tips… how do you get into it?

D How do you get into audiobooks. Okay well - the reason that people approach the charities - there's the listening book charity as well - and the reason that people do that is that the catch-22 that you find yourself in with audiobooks is that they want you to have narrated an audio book before they'll employ you to narrate an audio book, which is impossible of course. One thing that's really good is if you're a specialist - I mean that's true of anything - that's always an in. You know “I'm an authentic Manchester accent” or authentic Azerbaijani, whatever it may be, you know, because that there will be a book that comes along, so I'd really push anything that you can make a sort of unique selling point, that's always important. One thing about approaching audiobook companies is if you've got a voice reel that has commercials and a couple of narrations just in your voice that's - that's not really of any use to them, they want to hear much longer extracts than you would ever send to anyone else in the industry - in the broader audio industry. They want to hear you sustaining a story, they want to give you telling a story and ideally if you can do a bit of characterisation. So – I once had a book was set in Brighton and there were all these different cops roughly the same age, and all from Brighton - and that's in the book so you can't impose the Scottish, you can't impose Liverpudlian or whatever - they've got to come from Brighton. So I was talking to a mate of mine - Geoff Harding; marvellous, very experienced audio artist and he said “Oh, when I get that problem I always use the Seven Dwarves” and what he meant by that was so he'll do one who's a bit bashful, so you know - slightly retiring voice then he’ll do one who's a bit nasal cuz he's sneezy, one who's a bit grumpy… so I thought that was brilliant piece of advice so you know, you can have that. I think the more important skill with audiobooks is the ability to tell a story. I think that's that's the crucial thing. So, some people are brilliant at selling stuff and they get loads of adverts and some people are brilliant at improvising so they might do lots of ADR - some people are brilliant at being able to speak slowly but still sound like a human being and not laugh and those people can do English language teaching recordings! But, yeah, I think the most important thing for audiobooks is the ability to tell a story - and all that stuff that applies so much to voiceovers - wanting to tell the story; sounding like you’re interested in what you're talking about, so all of that's key… and then if on top of that you can do a bit of characterisation – and that doesn't have to be a sort of impossibly brilliant facility for accents. It's about characterisation, it’s about giving different voices and it doesn't have to be huge differences, you know, just enough to suggest a character that you can sustain and the listener will realise is that person throughout the book - particularly as some writers don't make much of a case of saying who a person is so… so we are free to kind of interpret that and give them a real kind of identity for someone who's listening to the book rather than reading it.

L And what about practicalities - so is there anything that you do to make sure that your voice stays solid for 10, 20 hours?

D It is tricky, especially when you start out because you read for longer than you ever would in any area of your life I always think that it's the marathon of audio work - you're a marathon runner, you're doing it over the course of a day and your voice does get tired. So the key to

that - I mean I suppose it's sort of obvious is – ideally, warm your voice up a bit before you use it and don't be doing anything around around your work that might affect your voice badly so don't go to a football match - or if you do don't shout… You know, don't do an ADR and have loads of kind of shouting stuff in that the day before you're going to be reading a

book for seven hours. Then I know a lot of people I know won't drink tea or

coffee; will only drink herbal tea… obviously keeping it lubricated’s important, drink loads of water as you're recording…


N Oh my word, that's brilliant advice.

L Yes, it does end rather suddenly but yes! Quite a lot of very good advice packed into five and a half minutes

N He seems like an absolutely bloody lovely guy

L What a lovely guy.

N And really generous of him to sort of share all his wealth of knowledge… I loved what he said about it ultimately being about telling a story, because that's exactly what it is - particularly when so much of it is narrative, you’ve really got to take people along on that journey. I don't do audiobooks, but I can see how that would be the crux of it as a listener. What else did I love? Um, I loved the bit about how to get into it I suppose because that's really useful because everybody's really… audiobooks are really hot right now, like everybody wants to do them, so that's bloody brilliant advice!

L Yep, bag up your USP and start chucking it at the charities.

N Yes - find out what your USP is, but that's true for all voiceover work as well I think

L And actually, so not just audiobooks but he has also a wealth of

knowledge in all other areas and so we do have more coming.. so what bits have we already put out?

N – Oh don’t ask me, I’ve had no sleep!

L Oh no! I’ve completely forgotten! One of them was about what the common theme of success was among his voiceover students - so he sees so many people coming through his classes and actually the people that then go on to make their way in the audio world, what the common themes were. So that's out there on Twitter and Facebook… and coming up there's stuff about expressing extreme emotion, and also about what the audio board or whatever it’s called on the Equity… what's it called? The audio committee’s hopes and dreams are for the future.

N They've got some really good people on board doing really great things as far as I can see

L Well yeh – our Dave, he’s one of them. Yes so there's more things - more to come from him… and also, as far as “Plog Meets” are concerned we have some very exciting things in the pipeline, very exciting people.

N Yep. So that's cool, so we hope you can all come a week yesterday or tomorrow or today or the day after tomorrow… what day is it on Leah?

L It's on the 16th of December which is a Saturday from 2 until 6 p.m. Normally we don't have such a specific end do we, but we've gotta get out cause someone else is in there.

N How rude. Maybe they'll come in and not notice us and we'll just join their party too

L Maybe! Yeah, that'd be all right and we could just get the intensive voiceover chat out of the way and then just mingle with, um…

N The Manchester Poker Society’s Knitting Stitching club… our Sara Starling’d love that, she loves a bit of a knit.

L Oh yes she does! Sara, bring something knitted - Christmas knitwear!

N Edible Christmas knitwear.

L Yes please thank you very much.

N So, just to recap it's on Saturday the 16th, 2 till 6:00 p.m. at the Ape and Apple on John Dalton Street. Come and meet us upstairs, we’re very friendly - bring and/or wear something Christmassy and that's sort of it I think?


N HO HO HO… we’re really using our pharyngeal resonance there..


N Leah’s gonna hyperventilate…

L HO HO… Can you do an elf voice?

N (nasal, squeaky, American) Of course I can!


L (higher pitched, also American) Oh! I thought it would be more like this… but weirdly, both American

N When I teach nasal resonance, a really nice way into it is (nasal, American) I’m a greedy little elf

L (nasal, American, evil) I’m a greedy little elf

N That's a horrible elf though - that's not the elf that would make your presents, that’s the elf that would steal your house keys and break into your house when you’re asleep

L …and take your car.

N But you know, that’s just character interpretation.. so there we go… look, let’s end this, I need another cup of tea

L I've been Leah Marks

N …and I've been Nic Redman

Both And we are VO Social North!

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