Review of ‘The Ruling Class’ and the differences between Scottish & British accents

Our intern, Hava, had the great opportunity to see The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Studios – starring James McAvoy! Read what she has to say about it and learn more about the differences between Scottish and British English accents!

As I am a great admirer of James McAvoy, I really wanted to see him starring in The Ruling Class this year, which is a West End cult revival written by Peter Barnes and directed by Jamie Lloyd. The only thing stopping me from getting the tickets right away was the price, but after a few months of hither and thither I finally bought them! So, long story short, on Thursday I took a day off (the tickets were for the Matinee show) and headed to the Trafalgar Studios. As I had lots of time I kept an eye on the Stage Door before the show – and lucky me! I didn’t have to wait for too long until good-looking but aged McAvoy walked by, grabbed my phone and took a photo of us.


The Ruling Class tells the story of Jack, a paranoid schizophrenic with a Messiah complex, who inherits the title of the 14th Earl of Gurney after his father accidentally hangs himself during one of his thrill-seeking bedroom sessions (wearing nothing but a tutu). Singularly unsuited to a life in the upper echelons of elite society, Jack finds himself at the centre of a ruthless power struggle as his scheming family strives to uphold their reputation. (read here)

How do you know you are God?” Jack is asked.
Simple,” he replies. “When I pray to Him, I find I am talking to myself.”

The whole play was mesmerising and gives you everything from wit, exciting melodrama, brilliant satire and horror to cynicism, pathos and sentiment. Too many truly bizarre and wholly wondrous things happened. McAvoy, however, has a tendency to steal the show by throwing himself about the stage, delivering miraculous speeches, unicycling, dancing and singing. His smile and darting eyes can say whatever he wants them to say: utterly mercurial, hilarious and wild one moment, calculating and insane in the next.

Forbes Masson and James McAvoy in The Ruling Class by Peter Barnes at Trafalgar Studios.

Did you know?

Since James McAvoy was actually born in Port Glasgow, Scotland, we asked our teacher, Marianne to explain some of the differences between Scottish and British English accents.

Scottish English doesn’t have as many vowel sounds as speakers with English accents. Scottish speakers lack about five vowel sounds that English speakers use. Scottish speakers don’t use a schwa sound like English speakers. The sound in ‘the’ is the same as the sound in ‘bit’.

Also, for Scottish speakers, ‘bird’ and ‘heard’ are not homophones [the same sound], although they are for speakers with an English accent.

Scottish speakers lack the vowel that English speakers use here. The vowel in ‘heard’ will always be the same as the vowel in ‘bet’, ‘let’ and ‘set’ and the vowel in ‘bird’ can be the same as the vowel in ‘but’ or ‘bit’ depending on the accent and gender of the speaker.

Unlike English speakers, Scottish speakers don’t differentiate between ‘cot’ and ‘caught'; both these words are sound the same for Scottish English speakers and they both have a short vowel in them.

Now check out this video so you can see those differences in action!

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