Tag Archives: Acting For Others

The Understudy



The Understudy

The Understudy

Online via www.theunderstudyplay.com

Reviewed – 20th May 2020



“Recorded in isolation, it is propelled by a cast that comprises the cream of the crop”


Of all his novels, David Nicholls has said that “The Understudy” is the one he most yearns to rewrite. Those familiar with the book would possibly balk at this show of modesty. It is true that it has been unfairly overlooked in the shadow of his better-known works, but it deserves more of the spotlight. The gentle, self-deprecating humour, laced with a sharp and cutting wit that can only come from experience, casts an astute eye over the ‘theatrical life’; taking us backstage and beyond.

For eight years Nicholls trod the boards himself. He was a failed actor, he admits, his career on a steep downward path. We somehow get the feeling he’s being too hard on himself, but his natural skills as a writer turned that failure into success and, with luck, his story can take centre stage now with its revival as a streamed, online radio play. Released in two parts, it is adapted by Henry Filloux-Bennett in response to Covid-19 thwarting the fully staged production. With director Giles Croft at the helm it is a wonderful homage to an industry under threat and reaffirmation that it has no alternative but to survive. (Consequently, all proceeds from the play go to theatre charities).

The story revolves around actor Stephen McQueen (no, not ‘that’ Steve McQueen); divorced, down on his luck and waiting in the wings for that big break. His ex-wife has given up waiting long ago, while his daughter wonders when he will get a proper job. McQueen’s luck looks set to change when he lands a job understudying the vane but talentless film star, Josh Harper, in the West End. He covets the leading man’s job, but unfortunately, he covets his wife too. When he sees an opportunity to steal both, things can only go horribly wrong.

Recorded in isolation, it is propelled by a cast that comprises the cream of the crop. You can almost ‘hear’ the twinkle in Stephen Fry’s eye as his affectionately sardonic narration weaves through the action; while Russell Tovey epitomises the hapless McQueen. Sarah Hadland, as ex-wife Alison, floors him with her sarcastic punches, but with her skilled shifts of tone can pick him up again with real affection. Josh Harper is suitably arrogant and wonderfully observed in Jake Ferretti’s portrayal. With Emily Atack as his love interest (on and off stage) and Sheila Atim as his intellectually and morally superior wife, they are all supplemented by a fine supporting cast.

The in jokes that litter the script will appeal beyond the theatre profession. Although those on the inside will be familiar with the mantra ‘Acting is Reacting’. It is hard to know whether the foreknowledge that each actor was recording their lines alone in their own homes affects our listening, but we are often all too aware of the isolation. There is a sense of detachment within the flow of dialogue and, inevitably, there will be a lack of chemistry. Nevertheless, with the editing skills and the addition of sound and music from Alexandra Faye Braithwaite, Annie May Fletcher and Sophie Galpin the show stands out as an excellent radio play in its own right. Even though it whets the appetite for the (hopefully) eventual fully staged production, it doesn’t seek to replace the live experience. This rendition of “The Understudy” succeeds in its own right and can, at least for now, step out to steal its own few moments in the spotlight.

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans


The Understudy

Part One available from 20th May Part Two from 27th May with both parts available for a month

Online via www.theunderstudyplay.com



Last ten shows reviewed by Jonathan:
Message In A Bottle | ★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | February 2020
Musik | ★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | February 2020
Nearly Human | ★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Tell It Slant | ★★★ | Hope Theatre | February 2020
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | February 2020
Closed Lands | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Max Raabe & Palast Orchester | ★★★★★ | Cadogan Hall | March 2020
The Kite Runner | ★★★★ | Richmond Theatre | March 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2020
A Separate Peace | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020


Click here to see our most recent reviews


West End Bake Off



Theatrical charity, Acting For Others, today announces the brand new location for the third annual West End Bake Off. Many West End shows come together to compete in the most anticipated theatrical baking competition of the year. The fundraiser will now take place at The Actor’s Church St Pauls, on Saturday 20 May with judges to be announced at a later date.

Photo by Mark Lomas

Last year, there were wafers from Wicked, macaroons from Mamma Mia and carrot cake from The Comedy About A Bank Robbery and many more cake creations judged by Dame Barbara Windsor, Christopher Biggins and Michael Ball who crowned The Secret Garden as the winners. The event is free for members of the public to attend, with judging beginning at 10.30, and the winners will be announced at 11am, when the Bake Off will be declared open for the public to buy cakes, signed posters and mingle with cast and crew from the shows.

In 2016, over £6,000 was raised and over 20 West End theatres took part.

West End Bake Off is being held in aid of Acting for Others, a fundraising organisation for 15 UK theatrical and welfare charities.

For those unable to attend the event, Acting for Others can still be supported by donating at its Just Giving page:




For further information please visit:





West End Bake Off



Saturday 20 May 11am – 1pm

St Paul’s Church, Bedford Street, London, WC2E 9ED


West End Bake Off is supported by Official London Theatre


This year’s logo is by Martin Smith from Origin8 Design