If you struggled to make out what the characters were saying in last night’s Birdsong, don’t worry: you’re not alone.
“Is it me or is Eddie Redmayne swallowing his words? Enunciate, man!” tweeted one viewer. “I couldn’t hear what the main two were saying 80% of the time. They barely moved their mouths!” complained another. “I have only one gripe,” said a viewer who otherwise loved the drama, “I couldn’t hear all the dialogue.” I suspect that around the country many viewers were reaching for the subtitles button and making a mental note to wash their ears out. The music – and indeed the birdsong – may have been audible, but scriptwriter Abi Morgan’s lines (few and far between anyway) were often mumbled.
I had the benefit of headphones when I previewed the drama a few weeks ago, and even then I had to resort to watching some scenes twice. But over ordinary TV speakers, many exchanges had all the clarity of teenagers muttering excuses about homework.
Perhaps that doesn’t matter too much in a story where much of the drama lay in lingering glances and soulful looks. And it appeared to be a deliberate policy rather than a failing of one or two actors: Redmayne, Joseph Mawle, Clémence Poésy and several others gave the impression of not so much delivering their lines as quietly burying them.
Meanwhile, at least one viewer was more preoccupied with the sound effects, pointing out that the collared dove cooing in the French woodland scenes didn’t actually arrive in Europe until the 1940s. Still, at least you could hear it.
The BBC says so far it has received eight complaints about the dialogue in Birdsong, which was watched by six million viewers.