This is Sarah's first blog post. This week she discusses how she came to be cast as Dogberry, the discovery of different connections between characters in rehearsals and her thoughts on the Globe.
Transcript of Podcast
The funny policeman
I was actually thinking about the part of Don John when I first came in to read. My husband was part of the Globe Company last season so I’d been here several times, and I just loved the atmosphere of the place. My agent got in touch with Siobhan [Bracke, Casting Director] who called me in to read for her and Tamara [Harvey, Master of Play]. I had only read through Much Ado About Nothing very quickly and chose to do some of Don John's lines in the audition, because I thought I saw a way through them, but Tamara and Siobhan looked at each other when I said I fancied playing him, so I guessed they had someone else in mind for me! That turned out to be Dogberry and at first I thought it was crazy – I couldn’t get a handle on this funny little man at all – but I read the play over again and by the time of my second audition, I’d fallen in love with the part. Rereading the play again and concentrating on the character cast things in a totally different light. The audition went well (we did part of his first scene, III.3) though I was a bit nervous. It's strange; I only started to get really scared when everyone who found out about Dogberry said ‘Oh! The funny policeman! He's really funny, that’ll be great!’ There's an odd pressure when everyone expects you to be funny, and anyone who has done comedies will tell you that you can’t really approach a comedy character in that way – at the same time of course I do want to entertain people!
It can be nerve-wrecking to go through a play together for the first time, so I’m really glad Tamara did an exercise where we sat in a circle and went to the 'centre stage’ area to speak our lines. Whenever a character was mentioned, we all had to point at that them. It really emphasised how crucial relationships are in this play: people were pointing at each other a lot because the characters talk about each other so much. I don’t just mean the pointing exercise stressed the central relationships between Hero and Claudio (although they were pointed at a lot during the exercise), and Beatrice and Benedick. It also emphasised connections between Don John and Don Pedro, and Hero, Margaret, Ursula and Beatrice. I don’t think I was pointed at once as Dogberry – nobody talks about him or mentions his name when he's offstage, even though he's important in the exposure of Don John's plot to ruin Hero (albeit completely by chance!) Verges is the only one who mentions Dogberry by name in the Watch's first scene... he's not greatly involved in the web of relationships at the centre of the play. I don’t know if I’ll do anything with that yet; I don’t really know who Dogberry is, because I didn’t do very much preparation before rehearsals started … much too scared! The voyage of discovery proper starts today.
Playing a man
Although I’m not sure who Dogberry is, my head is buzzing with all kinds of ideas – I haven’t been able to sleep much so I should probably try to calm down! Things will calm down as the Company gets to know one another, and that should happen very quickly. Dogberry comes on at about the middle of the play, so I’ll be working on scenes next week I expect. In the meantime, there are the classes for Voice, Movement and Word, as well as full company rehearsals for the jig and so on. We’ll be jigging at the end of the play as Shakespeare's company did. I don’t know if we’ll be doing any sort of work on ‘male’ physicality: as Josie [Lawrence, Benedick] was saying today, when you’re concentrating on understanding a complete character, their sex seems by the by. Initially I really wanted a male part in the female company because I thought it would be a huge challenge, but after just two days I’m starting to think about that differently: I’ll get on with Dogberry as a character rather than a ‘male’ type.
Dogberry is very likeable – I did sort of fall in love with him. He's silly and confused… not having looked too closely at the script, I haven’t decided very much about him but I do have images of various people in my head who are a bit Dogberry-like … Arthur Lowe and an old comedian called Harry Worth, for instance. I don’t think of them as male archetypes, just as people that have things about them that I would like to bring to Dogberry as a character. When Mark [Rylance, Artistic Director] was talking about Dogberry on the first day, he said maybe he's quite nervous and that's why he makes all those malapropisms. That's quite an interesting idea because often when we have to speak in public we do get very nervous and words start to do odd things; I’ve started to stutter before – but Dogberry isn’t going to have a stutter! I had a costume fitting with Luca [Costigliolo, Master of Clothing] the other day, and he was talking about how the sexton runs the court scene (IV.2). I said ‘Oh no, Dogberry runs that scene – he's head honcho!’, but of course he's not – as the sexton says, ‘Master Constable, you go not the way to examine’. I think my quick read-through gave me the impression of someone who perhaps very much wants to be in control and that turned into my assumption that he was in control … and I probably haven’t read the play closely enough yet either! There are so many things that I do want to bring to him, though, which is why I can’t sleep at the moment, but that's fine. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about a play when we’re not even a week into it yet!
I’ve already had some fittings for Dogberry's costume. He's going to be wearing a black doublet and a shiny pair of hose, and a nice cloak and hat: I’m very pleased with the outfit, and I don’t think I’ll be wearing a corset, which is great! I’m probably going to get a moustache as well – the pictures I’ve seen of Elizabethan constables showed them with a little moustache, although Luca has some pictures of the Watch that show them with full facial hair. I’ve been imagining Dogberry over the last few weeks with a little moustache. Actually, it's odd to imagine what I’ll look like. I had thought of a complete transformation; Dogberry would be a lot older than me, with a grey wig and a grey moustache… a bit like the Arthur Lowe character in Dad's Army, but my ideas about appearance are changing all the time. There are still elements of the Arthur Lowe character that I’d like to incorporate, but now I don’t think he's going to be that old and he won’t be wearing a wig. To be honest, the costumes are probably one of my favourite things about original practices: they feel great and improve the way you stand. I love wearing the hats and I’m also quite relieved that I don’t have to wear a dress. To do it this way in this space just feels right.
There's nowhere quite like the Globe. It has this feeling of bigness, hugeness, roundness! Even when you do open air theatre in somewhere like Regent's Park, there's nothing like the space or the audience, especially the groundlings. Some experience of open air productions probably helps because you're able to deal with lots of distractions – the movement and the noise of the audience. I’ve always really enjoyed being an audience member here, too, and you can’t always say that about the theatres you work in. Some of the stories about last season's experiences are useful, but this time will be a different experience. In a way, I want to go over to the Globe now and get used to being in that space as soon as possible so that we’ve got plenty of time to gauge things like how to use our voices and how to move around the stage. I don’t want the transition from rehearsal room to stage to be too much of a shock. Earlier today someone was describing a little girl they had seen perform on the stage as part of a schools’ presentation: she was about seven and every word she spoke could be perfectly heard. That's just what we want. Until I do get onstage and utter the first words, it seems rather intimidating as well as incredibly exciting. Getting to know the stage and feel secure there is just another thing to look forward to over the next few weeks.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.