The Class Project

The Stage / Natasha Tripney

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 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, capturing their cadences. As she does all this 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 subtle class markers 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.