Class, a number, a lizard

We recently saw an amazing production of the play A number

The dramatic premise is as deceptively simple as it is uncompromisingly topical. In five short scenes — ‘Number’ packs an astonishing amount of thought and entertainment into less than an hour — a father, Salter (Bill Smitrovich), meets with three embodiments of his son. Two, both named Bernard, are the son he fathered and the clone he raised. The other, Michael, is a stranger to him, in more ways than he can comprehend. That each is instantly recognizable as a distinct individual, despite an exact physical resemblance, is a testament to the skills of Josh Charles, who plays all three roles.

There was a Q&A afterwards where we heard about a British production (the play was originally produced in London, I believe) in which the actor playing the three different sons had more degrees of freedom in how he presented the three characters – since class can be denoted through accent in a more significant way for the Brits. It was another interesting example of small and large shifts in meaning seen from a shift in context.

Now, I noticed recently that they changed the voice actor who does the voice for the Geico gecko. He’s gone from a somewhat refined sounding English accent to a rougher Cockney (or what sounds like Cockney to me) tone. That would have significant meaning in the UK. What does it mean to us in North America? First off, it’s odd that it changed so drastically after several years of advertisements, but what are we supposed to take away from the revoicing? I honestly don’t know. Here’s what Geico’s website says

Even when the gecko becomes annoyed with people calling him at home on the phone by mistake when theyÔø?re trying to reach GEICO, he always maintains his decorum in a very proper English tone.

I think they need to update that part of their site! And there’s speculation about who the new voice actor is (described as “less posh”) here and here while others rant about the change in the character’s voice (originally Kelsey Grammer in the first ad) and purpose right out of the gate.


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