Nick Haverson, working at the RSC for the first time, has important roles in all three plays this season.

He has managed to see the humanity in each of the characters he has portrayed, his sensitivity adding richness to the presentation of Costard in Love's Labour's Lost, Dogberry in  Love's Labour's Won, the German officer and the sergeant in The Christmas Truce.

Nick Haverson as Dogberry in Love's Labour's Won (Much Ado About Nothing), directed by Christopher Luscombe.
Photo by Manuel Harlan © RSC – Image Licensing

Acting at school

His experience in devised theatre he has found most useful, a talent which he discovered in his Norfolk middle school years when he had a teacher who encouraged imaginative responses to hats or props. She invited the class to tell a story and he was away!

In senior school he found Julius Caesar entertaining but Antony and Cleopatra which he did for A Level 'impenetrable'. But he was still happily involved in practical drama, having taken it as a CSE subject and finding that he could do an O/A Level at sixth form college.

He applied for drama school at 18 and to his surprise was accepted by LAMDA.

At LAMDA he did Richard III in the Lady Anne scene, Lorenzo in The Merchant of Veniceand Borachio and Friar Francis in Much Ado About Nothing in his final year.

His first professional job found him cast as Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a play he has been in three times, playing Puck and Demetrius on other occasions. He was cast as a Dromio in A Comedy Of Errors.

While working at Northern Stage he met Erica Whyman who directed him in Ruby Moon. He admires her warmth and her subtlety in 'shunting' you as he calls it in the right direction. So he was happy enough to work with her on The Christmas Truce and Chris Luscombe was someone he took to from the start. Chris has said that the moment Nick walked into the room he knew that he had his Dogberry.

Playing Costard 

I would have thought Costard in Love's Labour's Lost was a more difficult role to play than Dogberry. His language is at times impenetrable and there is a lot of it!

But in performance this is the easier role Nick tells me because Chris has done the cutting work. It makes the play more accessible. Chris is not afraid to change a word if by doing so he can retain the audience's understanding.

So we have no difficulty in following Costard as he compares his emolument (e-mol-u-ment), a paltry sum given as a tip by Don Armado to the remuneration (re-mun-er –a-tion) of a shilling by Berowne.

Nick compares this to a front of cloth scene in a pantomime when he gets the audience on his side by presenting himself as the poor guy appealing to poor guys. The actor Will Kempe must have been similar to this in Shakeaspeare's time? And the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage is perfect for these appeals.

His work with Ayckbourne at Scarborough in the round taught him how to keep it alive by being on the move.

Playing Dogberry 

Dogberry is the more difficult role.

'You walk in the footsteps of giants and audience expectations,' Nick says. And the director has played the role himself! So he had thought a lot about his performance beforehand.

Given the war concept, he decided that Dogberry had lost an arm. He had also heard the text, the boldness of Dogberry's speech, in a northern accent. Chris told him that he saw Dogberry on a bicycle. Not a problem, even with one hand , he assured Chris but the director was not convinced, given the narrow entrances to the stage through the audience. And the accent would be Warwickshire!

The idea of shell shock was considered and Nick then presented an uncontrollable twitch, only he was told to 'get back to the words please'.

Having lost an arm and an accent he was prepared to fight over his shell shock. The a compromise was using the twitch more sparingly. So he keeps it under wraps until an undermining of his authority acts as a catalyst. This is a man who has 'seen losses' according to the text. The backstory Nick invented is that, having endured the war, Dogberry returns to find his wife and child have died in the flu epidemic. It adds an edge, a depth to a character who cannot be dismissed as an ass.

He loves the comedy of the examination scene in the cramped room. 

'This is an adventure playground of a scene with a bicycle pump, an ironing board and even a mangle.'

They were given freedom to play, Chris just reminding them not to lose the story the scene told at the same time.

'Dogberry drives the scenes he is in whereas Costard is in the back seat, poking his head through from time to time', is how Nick describes the difference in the roles.

I hope we see him again in Stratford.

Viv Graver

Viv Graver is a retired teacher, who taught Shakespeare for more than 30 years in the north of England. Her present interest is introducing Shakespeare into primary schools. Viv's blog is a series of interviews with RSC cast and creatives about their path to Shakespeare and how they first came to it, at school and elsewhere.

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