The King’s Speech and The Alexander Technique…Is there a link between Lionel Logue and FM Alexander?

By Colin Tully M.STAT

The remarkable story of George VI’s recovery from a debilitating stammer as documented in the film, The King’s Speech, has captured the public imagination in the past few weeks.

As a teacher of Alexander Technique I was struck by the similarity of the film’s main character, Lionel Logue to F.M .Alexander. Both men were Australians who travelled to England in the early part of the twentieth century, both establishing unorthodox but successful teaching practices, seemingly working miracles with their unconventional techniques.

Although Alexander was a generation older they quite independently developed a deep interest in the art of elocution, both particularly having a passion for reciting Shakespeare.

I was excited to discover that when Logue decided to leave Australia to travel to Europe and the USA in order to explore more advanced methods of voice production that he intended to visit ‘the great master, Alexander,’ in London.

I have not as yet been able to find out whether Logue did in fact take lessons with Alexander. It certainly would have been a natural thing to happen with the two men living close by each other in London. On seeing the film I was struck by some of the underlying similarity of approach that the two men had. Both sought to change the physical and mental rigidity in their pupils, freeing them from the patterns of behaviour that were holding them back from achieving their true potential.

In spite of his success Logue did not train someone to carry on his work after his death. Fortunately, Alexander was persuaded to initiate a training course in the 1930’s and his methods and ideas are nowadays taught by hundreds of Alexander Teachers throughout the world.

Alexander (who was born in Tasmania in 1869) was himself very interested in the problems of the stammerer and devoted a whole chapter to the subject in one of his books. It was in fact by responding to his own problems of voice loss when he was a young actor that he evolved his methods. He spent several years painstakingly studying himself in mirrors whilst speaking and reciting, eventually completely curing himself of his vocal problems. The insights and techniques which he evolved over this period have become known as the Alexander Technique.

In lessons the ‘pupil’ is taught to develop a greater awareness of how they move and respond in everyday activities of life. The indivisible connection between our thoughts and our muscles is explored; unconscious, habitual tensions and responses come to our attention giving us more choice and freedom in how we act, think and move. Stammering is just another example of people unconsciously reacting with unnecessary effort. This unfortunately often becomes worse as people try to do something to overcome the stammer. With the guidance of a good Alexander Teacher we can learn not ‘to do’ and not ‘to try’ and can restore our natural tendency towards ease, balance and co-ordination, not just in speaking but in all our activities.

Colin teaches the Alexander Technique at MNHC and also at Bristol Alexander Training School

Ffi www.colintully.com

Bristol Alexander Training School

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