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Semi-staged rehearsed reading of The Understudy at the Palace Theatre

The UnderstudyA cast of 14, including Stephen Fry and James Norton, will celebrate the re-opening of the West End in an exclusive semi-staged rehearsed reading of The Understudy which was presented as an animated online play in May to raise funds for the theatre industry. The play will once again be raising much-needed funds for the UK’s theatre industry, and proceeds from the play will be split between Acting For Others, the Equity Charitable Trust and The Theatre Development Trust, run by the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.

STARRING: Stephen Fry, James Norton, Mina Anwar, Natalie Casey, Sasha Frost, Marie Lawrence, James McNicholas, Lizzie Muncey & more

For two nights only at London’s Palace Theatre, this is a perfect pre-Christmas treat for theatre lovers.

The stellar line-up of actors currently confirmed to perform in The Understudy includes Stephen Fry, James Norton, Mina Anwar, Natalie Casey and many more. Having previously recorded their lines in isolation, this will be the first time the actors will be performing together in the flesh as they swap their makeshift recording studios at home for the real-life stage, which has been prohibited since March. Directed by Giles Croft, this is a stage adaptation written by Henry Filloux-Bennett and will be accompanied by Dusthouse’s wonderful animation from the play’s online adaptation.

Based on the novel by the best-selling author David Nicholls, The Understudy tells the story of an underdog – a failed husband, a failing father, a failing actor, and the impossible choice he’s going to have to make between stealing the show and stealing another man’s wife.

Giles Croft, Director of The Understudy, comments: “Over the past seven months I have watched as theatres, theatre companies and artists have struggled to manage the impact of COVID-19. I have been impressed by their resilience and ingenuity and saddened by the heartache and the loss. Having been through the ‘Zoom revolution’ we are now entering, tentatively, the era of the socially distanced audience and bubbled actors, which I have no doubt will lead to great creativity and inventiveness, but things will not be the same as they were. Success will depend as much on creating confidence that theatres (permanent or pop up) are safe places to spend time, as much as on the work produced. Having experienced my first visit to a socially-distanced show last week, I am confident that it will happen and very excited that this excellent project, born out of lockdown, is going to play a part in bringing live theatre back to UK stages.

Nimax Chief Executive Nica Burns, comments: “There couldn’t be a better way of reopening the Palace Theatre following our second national lockdown: Stephen Fry leading a fantastic cast in two charity performances of THE UNDERSTUDY. The theatre community continues to stand together using their talents entertaining eager audiences in support of our performers and freelancers. Standing centrestage is the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield which continues like many regional theatres, to be at the heart of its local community while providing them with wonderful entertainment.

Praising the play’s digital premiere in May, Dominic Cavendish at The Telegraph writes: “Stephen Fry steals the show in this witty, star-studded online comedy… Cometh the hour of our theatres’ closure, cometh the cohort of acting talent helping to give the story the kind of playful boost it deserves.

Additionally, The Stage’s Fergus Morgan comments: “It is a story that wittily steps between two very different acting worlds – the red velvet and rooftop parties of the West End, and the crappy agents’ offices and converted garages that sit somewhere south of success.

Actor Stephen McQueen has just landed a dream West End role. Well, that’s not quite true – he’s going to be is understudying film star (and 12th Sexiest Man in the World) Josh Harper in the brand-new show ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know’, but still…Whilst he’s waiting for his time to shine, he reflects on his career – one that has spanned everything from (non-speaking) Rent Boy 3 in ‘The Bill’ to his recent starring role as Sammy in the (low-budget) regional tour of ‘Sammy The Squirrel’s Seriously Silly Safari’.

With this new job Stephen’s stage career may be destined for the dizzying heights, but not everything is going quite as well. Stephen’s wife left him two years ago, wondering if he’d ever grow up; his daughter wonders when he’ll get an actual job; worst of all, he’s starting to fall for the leading man’s wife.

The Understudy was originally commissioned by The Lowry, Salford.

The Understudy
Dates Monday 7th December and Tuesday 8th December, 7.30pm
Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 5AY
Running Time 2 hours plus interval
Tickets £20 -£45
Box Office 0330 333 4813

Social Media @UnderstudyPlay, @theLBT

Writer Henry Filloux-Bennett
Director Giles Croft
Sound and Music by Alexandra Faye Braithwaite. Annie May Fletcher and Sophie Galpin
Animation by Dean Kendrick and Mark Kendrick for Dusthouse
Produced by Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

Cast includes:
Stephen Fry
James Norton
Mina Anwar
Natalie Casey
Sasha Frost
Marie Lawrence
James McNicholas
Lizzie Muncey
With further casting to be announced.


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