Hero’s watery crash pad

Much Ado About Nothing, The Globe, 2 September 2011

A third and (sadly) final look at this great Globe production helped to explain an odd feature that had proved puzzling on the first two views.

After Dogberry had spoken with Leonato in 3.5, his assistant Verges suddenly fainted. Dogberry tried to revive him. He fetched water from a pond cupped in his hands, but it all drained away.

He tried to drag the huge Verges towards the water, but he was too heavy. He then used his hat to collect water and threw it all over his colleague. Verges awoke and swam backstroke on the wet stage in response to the drenching.

This amusing comic interlude is not in the text. And although it was very funny in performance, it did seem to have been slotted into the production for no particular reason. It came from nowhere and led nowhere.

Viewed from the galleries, however, the purpose of the watery fun and games became apparent.

The next scene saw the rejection of Hero on her wedding day by Claudio. The bride-to-be was cast aside as Claudio’s anger boiled over at the apparent infidelity of his beloved.

The enraged bridegroom threw Hero to the ground so that she landed precisely in the centre of the wet zone, something not immediately apparent when seen from yard level.

The water spilt liberally over the centre of the stage by Dogberry meant that Hero could slide comfortably across the stage to a dignified halt. Without the water the rough surface of the Globe’s boards would have caught on her dress bringing her to an abrupt and uncomfortable stop.

This whole slapstick sequence had been deliberately engineered to make Hero’s dramatic crash a safe one.

The other feature of note at this performance was that the packed Globe auditorium did not seem much inclined to hiss at Don John.

I did my best to start the ball rolling early on, which led some in the yard to look up and stare at the one-man hissing machine in the middle gallery.

This was surely one of the few occasions in the Globe’s performance history where the yard was more taciturn than the posh seats.


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