A History of Hero
How others have played before me.
I have now seen four versions of Much Ado About Nothing: the 1993 Kenneth Branagh version, the 2011 Globe version, the 2013 Joss Whedon version, and a professional outdoor production by King’s College when I was in Cambridge last summer (2013). I think that’s been enough outside research as far as how other actresses have played my part.
The most commonly taken angle on Hero’s character is sweet, gentle, and innocent. I know I’ve definitely taken that angle on her. I feel that most of her lines don’t allow for much else. She’s someone everyone has to feel sorry for, someone whose loss of purity everyone has to lament.
Most — if not all — of the women whom I’ve seen play Hero are both beautiful and mild. Sometimes I get the feeling that she’s a trophy, that she’s just in the play to be the unattainably perfect one. In a sense, she is: she’s the character we have to feel sorry for because she’s the only completely undeserving one, and simultaneously the one who suffers the most devastating pain of the play.
The one actress who had a different take on Hero was Ony Uhiara from the Globe production. The thing that most surprised me was that she played the character without restraint. She played Hero with more exuberant emotion than the other versions I’ve seen. Sometimes a portrayal of a female character as gentle and kind fades into the background in people’s minds, but Uhiara was sometimes screaming, sometimes laughing too loudly, but always bringing life and excitement to the character.
I bet that she never thought that that was a wrong way to play the character. Maybe my mistake is assuming that there is a wrong way to interpret Hero. Hero is whoever I am physically, emotionally, and mentally able to picture her as, and Hero is also who she is in the play. (I know this sounds crazy, but) Hero is herself, and I’m just playing her.
I know I said above that I feel that I already have an angle on Hero, and that I’ve already been playing her according to this certain way; namely, sweetly, gently, and innocently. I don’t think I have to get rid of that, but I don’t think I have to limit Hero to that either. This character — and this experience, for me — deserves much more than that easy out of typecasting her in my own mind. I especially don’t have the right to do that as the actor playing her.
So now comes the real work: who is Hero? What does it mean to be her?