The 39 Steps: Performers' vocal interpretation of character (accent, volume, pitch, timing, pace, intonation, phrasing, emotional range, delivery of lines)

The 39 Steps: Performers’ vocal interpretation of character (accent, volume, pitch, timing, pace, intonation, phrasing, emotional range, delivery of lines)

Vocal Interpretation of Characters


  • Understand and consider the importance of accent in the characters of “The 39 Steps”. Specifically, observe how the protagonist Richard Hannay’s Scottish accent signifies his origins and establishes his character profile.


  • Explore how volume impacts the dynamics of a scene. For instance, the loud commands given by the German spy during his scheme’s exposure can instill urgency or fear.


  • Examine the role of pitch in conveying emotions and intentions. High pitch can express suspense or anxiety, while low pitch might suggest seriousness or danger.

Timing, Pace and Intonation


  • Consider timing and how it influences the dramatic tension. Punctuated speech can create suspense, while seamless, rapid fire exchanges can convey panic or urgency.


  • Deliberate on pace. Fast-paced dialogue can add intensity, while a slowed down pace can suggest reflection or impending crisis.


  • Reflect on intonation and how it influences the delivery of lines. Rising intonation can express excitement or anticipation, whereas falling intonation can evoke disappointment or the end of a scene.

Delivery of Lines and Emotional Range

Delivery of Lines and Phrasing

  • Remember delivery of lines and phrasing are important elements in showing your character’s personality. For example, in “The 39 Steps”, Hannay often speaks in short, direct statements which reflect his logical, straightforward mindset.

Emotional Range

  • Study the vast emotional range witnessed in the play, from ruthless spies to distressed ladies. Highlighting these emotions vocally improves performance and adds depth to the character portrayal.

Contextual Delivery

  • Think about the context of scenes and the emotional state of your character when delivering lines. This will influence the way lines are spoken, whether they are whispered in fear or shouted in anger.

Experimentation and Practice

Vocal Techniques

  • Practise different vocal techniques to convey the characters’ personalities and emotions effectively. Experimenting with your voice will enable you to find the most effective way to interpret your character vocally.

Remember, portraying a character vocally is not just about delivering lines, but how you use your voice to reflect their personality, emotions, and intentions.