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The Class Project review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘thought-provoking exploration of class’

Rebecca Atkinson-Lord in The Class Project at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Alex Beckett Rebecca Atkinson-Lord in The Class Project at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Alex Beckett

Rebecca Atkinson-Lord has lost her voice. Or rather she’s lost the voice of her home. She no longer speaks with a Wolverhampton burr. Privately educated, unlike her siblings, she has acquired a voice that allows her to “pass” but also one that separates her from her family and the place she came from.

The Class Project opens with her sitting on a school desk, chatting amiably to people as they enter, wearing a black T-shirt and using a more rounded accent. She sings a song of the Black Country and chalks quotes from Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron, about society, aspiration, entitlement and class, upon a board.

She uses headphones to deliver, Alecky Blythe-style, a conversation with her parents in which they discuss their own education and their choices regarding their children’s education, echoing their speech patterns and capturing their cadences. As she speaks, she applies make-up and changes her clothes, altering the face she presents to us, and – maybe even – altering the way we see her.

Accent still plays a key part in the way we perceive people. Your voice is an integral part of who you are. Atkinson-Lord explores the shift in self that came with being schooled to speak a certain way. Her show probes at the various ways in which these subtle markers of class still apply in society.

It’s an incredibly rich theme and there are places where it feels like she could dig deeper into some of the ideas raised, but at the same time the personal nature of the piece is what gives it its power.

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Thought-provoking autobiographical exploration of the relationship between accent and class