Shakespeare's Globe

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Paul talks in deatail about his character Dogberry including his key relationship with Verges, the nature of the fool's comic language, and how the Globe audience are central to the success of his role.

Transcript of Podcast

Paul Shuter:

Did you do a back story for Dogberry?

Paul Hunter:

Not really. The only element that we, Adrian who plays Verges and I, discussed – because they are a sort of a double act Verges and Dogberry, in the manner of Laurel and Hardy and Morecambe and Wise. We sort of felt, or made a decision, that there was no Mrs Dogberry or Mrs Verges and that they probably lived together. Once we said that, that felt right somehow. So that was probably the only thing – I mean I mentioned in the previous interview, some of the research touched on ‘Dads Army’ and stuff like that which was really useful, but in a way they seemed to operate best when they existed very much in the present and the here and now, I suppose. PS: Verges is the main relationship? PH: Yeah, it’s interesting the way Jeremy [Herrin, director] has cast it. It is very interesting because traditionally it is played the other way round, so that Dogberry is the bigger physically and Verges is often the small, older man. And he’s cast it completely inverted, with Adrian who is enormous and me not so. And I quite like what that has done to the relationship in a way, without having to force anything, it has just opened it up a bit for us. And yes it is the main relationship really and I think it’s that classic thing you see in double acts, where again it’s very much like Laurel and Hardy; I would be the Oliver Hardy character in that I get very much frustrated by him. I think there is a genuine warmth and compassion there, if someone else had a go at him then I would be very quick to defend him, so there is that warmth there.

PS:

You do say good things about him to Leonato?

PH:

Yes absolutely. At the same time, in one breath, I’m going, ‘oh he’s not quite the – but he’s very honest’. So yes, it’s a classic double act so it’s very enjoyable to play.

PS:

A lot of the comedy comes from the language and those things we call malapropisms, we perhaps ought to call them dogberry-isms.

PH:

We’ve made certain choices about how I treat those particular words, but obviously some of them are quite archaic, though I can imagine in one sense, friends of mine who aren’t theatrically minded or familiar with Shakespeare, could well believe I was saying exactly the right thing. There is that balance, I don’t want to over play it, it could be quite crude to over sell it, but it’s giving enough of a hint that – that’s what we are going for really, that there’s a particular relish in the way that I say those words that I don’t give to others. And if people can get some enjoyment out of that – some of them are quite obvious but some of them aren’t; they’re quite obscure really.

PS:

Is it very hard to rehearse that sort of comedy without the audience?

PH:

I think you can find out a certain amount in the room. When you’re running it in the room there tends to be a lot of people coming in; wardrobe, designers, there’s usually a bit of an audience, even if they are all working on the show, and I think you can find out various things. I think it’s also about the Globe. The great thing about the Globe is you find out the most about what you are doing in front of an audience, I think they teach you a huge amount about what works, what doesn’t work. Whereas in a traditional rehearsal and a more conventional space, maybe 80 percent of it would be found in the room and 20 percent might be – I would argue it’s more 50-50 and sometimes 60-40 – when I played Bottom here, there were things I did in the room that seemed to work, then suddenly the audience taught me much more about my relationship to the space, I suppose, and them. PS: I wanted to come on to Bottom because we know that Shakespeare, in effect, wrote for a stock company, and the guy who played Bottom, certainly at some point in time, would also presumably have been the guy who played Dogberry.

PH:

Yes it’s interesting that, I did think about that. You’re right he was writing for a company of performers and the clown would have played those two roles. So even though they are very different, presumably what they would have shared is the idea of a performer being allowed to improvise; definitely the two roles must have shared that, I can’t believe they didn’t. And the joy I think I found playing Bottom and here doing this so far, is you have to have that license slightly with those roles otherwise the danger is it can become a little bit too restricted. In a way it is about the performer and how the performer meets that part, because I’m sure that must be what happened when they were writing it, some of that material must definitely have come from someone making something up.

PS:

What would you say is Dogberry’s key scene?

PH:

I think in a way the key scene has to be – at the end of one scene he is told by Leonato that he can’t be bothered with these two idiots (Conrade and Borachio), you can try these men. I think that is the key scene, if it was a movie he would have this fantasy moment of being the American lawyer in the court room. That’s what I sort of think about and those references I find quite useful because we all know audiences are so familiar with court room and so I think it’s good to make those references clear. It’s got to be that and this is his moment, He makes a complete pig’s ear of it, of course its complete chaos, but that’s his chance and suddenly he gets to do his thing. And that’s what I think is so wonderful about the play. But if Shakespeare had created a really credible villain in Don John, you’d have had a much more serious Watch, competent Watch. You know in a way, because the Watch are so ludicrous, Don John can’t get away with this; he’s not like Iago, if he was like Iago we would have to be very credible, we couldn’t be a bunch of idiots or we would never catch him. So I think it’s wonderful that he, the more we do the play, how he merges these things together. And also how extraordinarily he puts a scene that is incredibly brutal; the shaming of Hero in the church, which is sort of unwatchable, it’s a really savage, brutal attack on this woman. To a modern audience it’s really – it’s brilliantly written and then immediately after that he has this ludicrous court scene, and I think that’s what makes Shakespeare so experimental because a lot of modern writers wouldn’t do that – and also in the course of one scene which he does later on; when it’s revealed to Don Pedro what’s been going on, he then brings in this idiot again, and that’s why it’s so extraordinary. I think a lot of modern writers wouldn’t have the bravery to do that.

PS:

What a lovely thought that the Globe that is 400 years old, has been on the school syllabus for 200 years, is actually very experimental.

PH:

It is experimental.

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