Old Globe Mounts Sparkling Production Of 'Much Ado About Nothing'
August 16, 2018 1:40 p.m.
Michael Hayden, actor playing Benedick
Sara Topham, actress playing Beatrice
Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter
I'm Maureen Cavanagh. Kathleen Marshall directs a sparkling production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Globe Theater. That review from Cape PBS arts reporter Beth Komando who speaks with actors Michael Hayden and Sarah top him who play the witty reluctant lovers.
You are playing Benedicte and Beatrice. So tell me as an actor what kind of the pleasures of tackling characters like that with dialogue that's good.
Well you just said it. The dialogue is glorious to play a character that loves language is brilliant with language and of course all Shakespeare's characters are at least in my experience a far more intelligent than I am. No truly I mean I could never think on my feet with such expanse and you'd be able to use language as a weapon or as a seduction or as to disarm. I mean it's glorious. It's a tennis match. It's banging back and forth with Sarah on a nightly basis. It's brilliant.
It's just the pleasure of imagining that one is faster and able to think with more alacrity and speak with more precision and you know so often in real life you're in a situation and ten minutes later you think oh that's what I should've said. And when you're playing a Shakespeare character you actually get to think of the thing in the moment which is a real joy. And also you know I always say the other pleasure is not just speaking the words but having them spoken to you getting to be on the receiving end of this text which is life changing world changing to allow yourself to yield to the other person's words is a really beautiful and joyous experience.
Now this particular production has kind of a Noel Coward feel to it because of the setting and the costumes and all that. So do you feel that you're kind of making a real connection like a screwball comedies of the 30s and people like Katherine Hepburn and Carole Lombard and things like that.
It is kind of the original adversarial romantic comedy for me when I'm doing Shakespeare the setting of the play the production doesn't really affect how I relate to the language or higher relate to the person because I think human beings have not changed since the dawn of time love is still love. Jealousy is still jealousy fear is still fear. You know I think some of the accoutrements you get to play with and relate to are a little bit different. But the internal kind of journey of finding your way towards being brave enough to admit you love someone and give them that power over you is the same whether you're playing it in 15 95 or 18 in 2005 or 2018 it read in the production notes that Kathleen talked about you guys being like magnets you know bounce each other away push each other away.
And so I was wondering if in terms of like the physical interaction you had that kind of played into it in some way playing with space and playing with compressing space between two people.
Whether it's a dangerous scene were those inches count but I always think what's often missed in impassioned scenes that quote unquote romantic scenes was a miserable way to put it because it often these people are wet and sentimental. You know if you want to kill something just do that. But those inches the space one that one encroaches upon are everything. And I always think that the closer you get it's like a balloon pushing away from you the harder it gets. And if you take that on board then that tension stays alive and it's very funny but it's also in other moments can be very dangerous and sexy. I think that's what creates physical tension onstage. I think that's part of what creates chemistry because God knows her and I don't have any get or something. But yeah the opposite magnets you know images like that can be very helpful.
I think like all romantic comedy this adversarial kind really comes from this play in a way. The other thing we talked about a lot wasn't never getting in a place where we settle not so much for us but also for the audience because there is a misconception I think that what the audience wants are what gives them pleasure is to see two people come together. But in actual fact the deliciousness is in the making the audience want that and not giving it to them until the very last moment. The idea of continuing to find ways in which they almost come together but don't which Shakespeare has already given you in abundance. If you are really working from the text it's very clear how difficult it is for them to actually broach that last quarter of a millimeter between them. You know for me all great romance stories have that element where it's not until the last breathless second. Do you actually resolve because if the court is resolved then then what you have is simply an apotheosis and I don't think Shakespeare wrote apotheosis.
Play is unless there's an epilogue and then you know God help us if you can see him a year and a half up the road they probably want to strangle each other. But you know the making up would be quite enjoyable.
I was going to say what do you see for Benedick and Beatrice so you're down there.
You know that's actually really a question for the people in the audience and not for us what they think would happen. You think about it because it can be one of the things that's hard as an actor as you play the battle and you and you get to the moment of satisfaction and then it's over and then you begin at the beginning the next time. And so every now and again you do think oh gosh wouldn't it be nice just to have 15 minutes where all was well in the world. But then it wouldn't be drama.
One out there has been married understands is that once you've been in the trenches for a while you know you'd be really bloodied but not beaten.
I think I do think one of the most important things to have in any relationship is a sense of humor. So I think it's it's it's also paramount about oneself and about your partner to you laughing at them when they don't see you of course or when you're with your friends but that gives me a lot of hope.
They give each other joy. They like the sparring. You know they like that piece of it. So and as I said before I think whatever scrapes they get into I think the making up would be pretty good.
And Kathleen talked about the notion of deception and self-deception in the play and between your characters. Can you comment on that a little.
Well I think it's vital that these Benedix this hopeless begins with being absolutely in a certain way Sajan erotic and absolutely certain you'll never be affected by women is beyond that and then you know having you know one pillar torn down bit by bit by bit. So yeah self-deception and deceiving others is. There are times it's absolutely done in a cruel way in the play and I think that's important and juxtapose that is very humorous way it's gone about it. So you know as only Jeanne Moos can do we get to see the full gamut of the ramifications of playing that game.
I think that's great. Absolutely. The core idea of deceiving other people but also deceiving oneself. And I think in so many of Shakespeare's plays the examination of love has to do with yielding and surrender. You feel beforehand the apprehension comes because you what you see are the things you would have to give up in order to be in that dynamic and that for some of these characters someone like Beatrice in particular feels impossible feels like a bargain and she's not willing to make. It's not until you are forced to reach for that other person in a moment of need that you find yourself surrendering almost unconsciously and then you find that what you get from surrender is more than what you give up. You know hopefully that's that's I think that's what we all wish for love to be.
That was Kate PBS arts reporter Beth Comando speaking with actors Michael Hayden and Sarah Topham. You can see them in much ado about nothing through September 16th.