Podcast Transcript – Episode Five: Adjoa Andoh

In this episode our Adjoa Andoh takes a break from her packed recording schedule to talk to us about acting, storytelling, and how she looks after her voice.

In order to ensure accessibility for all, we have provided a transcript of the episode below. If you would prefer to listen to the episode, visit our podcast page here.


Episode 5: Adjoa Andoh

David John
Hi and welcome to the Squadcast. This is the podcast from London Voiceover Agency, Voice Squad. If it's your first time, welcome. If you're coming back to listen again, good to have you back. Whatever your interest or connection to the voiceover world or the audio world [the] Squadcast is here to give you a bit of an insight into the workings of a voice agency and also the skills involved for the voice artists who work in the audio world.

David John
I'm David John. I work in audio, do various voiceovers and ADR and audiobooks and radio drama. I'm on the Equity Council as the audio councillor. And each week I'll be talking to different people interviewing actors, producers, all sorts of people involved in the voice over industry.

David John
This week, I'm very happy to say I'm talking to Adjoa Andoh, who is a film, TV, stage actress, director a Voice Squad artist. Adjoa has played all sorts of characters through the years. She's had a career that spanned over 35 years. She's appeared in all sorts of programmes. Eastenders, Casualty, Doctor Who... many, many others. She's been in many, many stage productions. Recently, she directed and starred in Richard II at the Globe Theatre. She is actually an award winning audio book reader and has read many, many audio books, including the No 1. Ladies' Detective Agency series so hugely experienced and we're delighted to have her with us.

David John
So, Adj, welcome.

Adjoa Andoh
Thank you Dave!

David John
Welcome to the famous Squadcast!

Adjoa Andoh
The Squadcast. I see what you did there!

David John
So it's great your talking to us - we're very happy - just before you run into the studio. We've got 10 minutes for a quick chat. So let's start with where it all began for you - acting -when did you kind of know, or think, this is what I want to do?

Adjoa Andoh
Well, I suppose there's two things, really - there's the acting and there's the voice side of it in a way. So I am the eldest child of an African man who was a journalist. So... we had the world service on relentlessly and then with the advent of Radio 4 - because listeners, that's how old I am - we had Radio 4 on relentlessly. And my father's a musician as well. My brother's a musician. My nephew's a musician, my grandmother's a musician... so sound and what you can do with listening has always been a huge part of my life and I love the radio. So I've been listening to voices all my life - as far back as I can remember - and I love storytelling.

Adjoa Andoh
When I was a kid, you know, we had the lovely childhood thing of, my father would come up every night with his guitar and sing to me and my brother and read us stories. And it wasn't until I was older and friends came round, and we're kind of going 'so your dad's coming in, why's that?' that I realised that it was weird and not everybody did it. So I've always loved that.

Adjoa Andoh
I was that kid from I don't know, four, five, six...who was very - I was very conscious of - how you put yourself across. And that might be because my brother, me, and my dad were the black people in the middle of the Cotswolds, in the sixties, for about a fifty mile range. So how you presented yourself could mean the difference between you being chased up the road or not. So I learned very early on that that was something you needed as like a survival skill, as much as anything. But I was also that annoying kid that dragged my friends round and would put on plays in the front room for which we would charge our parents for the excruciating privilege of having to sit through hours of, you know, execrable old nonsense.

Adjoa Andoh
So I was that kid. Lots of dressing up, lots of playing, I was always writing books and doing stories with illustrations and all that sort of thing. So it's been a huge part of my life. Obviously, we're talking sort of sixties-seventies Cotswolds. Nobody became an actor because you may as well have said, I'm going to be a nuclear physicist - it just wasn't what one did in the Cotswolds.

Adjoa Andoh
So I won lots of prizes at school for plays, which are my favourite thing. We weren't even allowed to do Drama in my school unless you were in the sixth form doing A Levels because drama wasn't a proper subject. So I did the school plays - when I was in the upper six I did O Level Drama. I loved it. I went, I remember going to see a play at the Old Vic in Bristol, written by David Hare, called Plenty.

David John
Yes, I remember it.

Adjoa Andoh
- starring Kate Nelligan. 1979. And I was depressed teen –

David John
Join the club!

Adjoa Andoh
Who wasn't!? And I went to see it on my own. I went to a matinee, had to write a school report on it. And I remember just weeping and coming out and just understanding that although the play was about a woman during the Second World War, from a rather wealthy middle class white English family, who goes to France, becomes a spy and then comes back and has to stop being fabulous at being a spy and go back to being a secretary. I understood that something in that storey really moved me. And I understood the power of theatre and the power of drama. Regardless of whether you saw your exact story on stage or not. And I wanted it. I wanted to be a part of it.

Adjoa Andoh
I didn't do that. I did my A Levels. I worked for Lloyds Bank, as many people where I grew up did -or joined the Civil Service. I hated that. Did two years of a law degree, made my father very happy, and then made him very sad when I bailed on it because I wanted to be an actor. Then eventually found my way to London, where I blagged my way. [I] got an audition, got a job, and then cleaned a lot of toilets, lived in a squat, and then slowly worked my way through. Which was something you could sort of do in the early eighties. We had a freedom to not know what we wanted to do.

David John
Which isn't there nowadays.

Adjoa Andoh
I think young people don't have that same freedom generally anyway.

David John
And there was more support for the arts in general, wasn't there?

Adjoa Andoh
There was. And there was more latitude. You, you know, there were cheap and free places you could live. You could sign on. You know, there was more latitude. Anyway, an then eventually, you know the years go on. And you, you worm your way into the business.

Adjoa Andoh
The question often asked, is about how do you decide - you know, two actors - how do you decide what you're going to do next? Because for us, stuff comes along, you get offered…

Adjoa Andoh
How do you decide?! You have the freedom to decide?! Choose?

David John
Any work that comes along! In the early days of course...

Adjoa Andoh
Well, I mean, I suppose I'm a bit pickier now. Now, generally, I just I want to do good work. I don't want to do work where I have to work very hard to paper over the cracks of something that's not very good. I would rather have to work hard to live up to the material. And that gives me great joy.

Adjoa Andoh
So I love doing things like Shakespeare because you really have to live up to the material or, you know, narrating an audiobook by Ann Leckie or doing something by Toni Morrison. Maya Angelou, you know, really good. Really good work. Some of those great African writers Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. You know, good work. But equally I love there's a little moment where I could do some CBBC stories and I love reading kids books. I just I just love doing lots of silly voices and doing all that stuff.

David John
It's a completely different kind of skill, isn't it? That thing of just using your voice rather than working in the theatre?

Adjoa Andoh
Yeah. I mean, I think in terms of - that's about the medium, isn't it?

David John
Yes.

David John
I mean, I think it's exactly the same skill. If you're doing an audio that's you know, book of the week on Radio 4, or you're reading some fun bedtime stories for two year olds. That's the same skill. But you're right, and I quite often do - I work with potential actors who are auditioning to join the BBC radio drama company, and I'll give them some tuition there. And I always say you have to think of the microphone as the listener's ear. Yes, so everything you do - you get all your silly comedy faces and all that, and forget about it.

David John
Your business, physical business...

Adjoa Andoh
Forget about it! All you've got is your voice. And you have to, you have to focus all your skills into that. Just, just think - it's such an intimate - voice work is so intimate. It's, I think it's the most intimate acting medium that there is. It's just you and the listener. And you have to evoke a whole world and all the characters and all the drama and all the tension. And you're working on so many parallel levels at the same time. That's what I really love - you're the narrator. You're the person who's being chased. You're the person who's doing the chasing, you know, the whole shamoli. It's you. And I love the challenge of that. And I really love listening to good readers. So, you know, I like being on either side.

David John
As you say, it's that intimate thing. It's not an audience. It's one person, one person listening with the headphones on, laying in their bed, listening to book at bedtime or wherever. That one-on-one thing.

Adjoa Andoh
Yeah.

David John
Do you - just on technical note - voice wise. Do you do anything in particular to look after your voice?

Adjoa Andoh
Yes!

David John
What do you do?

Adjoa Andoh
I drink vodka!

David John
Very good for the voice!

Adjoa Andoh
No, no, no, no. I I'm a big fan off vitamin C. I take industrial quantities of vitamin C every day because what you don't want is a throat infection or a chest infection that's you wiped. Can't work. Sage tea is great. Gargling. Always stretch your voice before and after. It is like if you about to run a four minute mile or whatever 20 hour mile. Whatever you like. You have to stretch your voice. So if I've being doing a show or I've been doing a, you know, a game or something, which involves screaming or shouting, you have to stretch out those vocal chords after. Just yawn, root of the tongue, stretch it all out and drink gallons of water. Water water water.

David John
Hydrate! Because you can damage - people damage their voices.

Adjoa Andoh
Yeah, and I know always sounds a bit, you know, actor-wafty, but keeping my neck warm, all that, you know, all those things that people think 'oh gawd, look at her, what on earth is she doing?' I'm thinking 'I'm protecting my livelihood!

David John
That's my tool! With an audiobook I find it's such a long day, you get to three- four o'clock in the afternoon and the focus and the voice is getting tired and it is quite a hard day's work.
Adjoa Andoh

Also I find, emotionally. I've just finished doing the Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte for Penguin Classics. You just have to emotionally go there all the time. My husband writes novels and I always feel you mustn't short change either the listener or the writer. You know, somebody spent maybe years of their life just diving into dark places, difficult places, whatever it is to create this piece of work. And you have to honour their work and the time and money that the listener is now about to spend listening to you, you know, bring their work to life audibly. So you really have to honour everybody's work by doing your work. And that means you have to be emotionally on it. You have to be vocally on it. You have to be narratively on it.

David John
Well, I think you've got to go to the studio?

Adjoa Andoh
Oh poop!

David John
Thank you. My pleasure. This may continue at a later date. It's been brilliant. Thanks Adj.

Adjoa Andoh
Bless. Cheers!

David John
So that was great having a little chat with Adjoa there. Sorry she had to rush off into the studio. That's the nature of the job.

David John
Next week we'll be talking to David Rintoul, whose career has spanned work all the way from Mr. Darcy to Pepper Pig, via Game of Thrones. And, of course, many, many other credits through the years. A huge amount of audio work. So please do join us for that.

David John
You can find out more about Voice Squad - listen to our artists - by visiting voicesquad.com. Feel free to check us out on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And if you enjoyed this episode, then please do subscribe and rate us wherever you listen to podcasts.

David John
The Squadcast is a Voice Squad Ltd production. It's hosted by me, David John. Devised by Neil Conrich and produced and edited by Emma Samuel. If you have any questions at all about the show, please do contact us via our website.


The transcript from our previous episode, an interview with Alison Dowling is available here.

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