The RSC Diaries: Understudy Club, Part One!

The RSC Diaries: Understudy Club, Part One!

(AMY) Amy, Mick and Mel are in a dressing room.
(AMY) So I thought to make
this understudy vlog a little bit better I’d get some mates to come and join me! Cue Mick and Mel! Who are you and who do you understudy?
(MICK) I’m Michael Patrick and in Taming of the Shrew I play the Tailor and I understudy
Grumio who’s played by Dickie Clews. And in Measure for Measure I play Elbow
and I understudy Lucio who is played by Joseph Arkley and I understudy Pompey
who’s played by David Ajao. (MEL) I am Melody and I play Vincentia
in Taming of the Shtrew – Shtrew? Shrew. (laughter) and I understudy Amanda Harris who plays Baptista and
Sophie Stanton who plays Gremia and I play Kate Keepdown and the Justice in
Measure for Measure but I understudy Claire Price’s Escalus, Karina Jones’s
Sister Francisca and Graeme Brooks’s Barnadine.
(AMY) What a selection of characters! (MEL) Apparently I’m versatile. (AMY) Oh, in Taming of the Shrew I understudy (MICK) Say your name as well!
(AMY) Hello, my name is Amy Trigg (MICK) Incase they don’t know that by this point. (AMY) Trust me Mick, they know.
(laughter) In Taming of the Shrew I
normally play Biondella but I understudy Trania and in Measure for Measure I
normally play Juliet but I understudy Gent One, Gent Two, Froth and Singer. (MICK) Also very versatile. (AMY) So versatile. Have you ever understudied before?
(MICK) I once did a – I was once involved in an all male production of The Importance of Being Earnest which was supposed to highlight marriage inequality in Belfast at the time and I understudied every single role in The Importance of Being Earnest so if you ever need
anyone to learn every single line of The Importance of Being Earnest, give me a ring. But
I did never have to go on so I learnt all the parts and then never went on.
Sat in the dressing room for a month or two. (AMY) Oh Mick. (MEL) I understudied the part of Mrs. Lintott in a tour of The History
Boys and I had a track as Fiona the secretary. I never got to go on
as Mrs. Lintott but they were very good, they gave us lots of understudy rehearsals and time on stage
and everything. (AMY) I have never understudied before. (Door opening)
Oh come in!
(MICK) Oh here we go!
(MEL) Hiya! (AMY) Hi Leslie! This is our wonderful dresser Leslie. Leslie, we’re vlogging at the moment so don’t be alarmed.
(LESLIE) What? (AMY) We’re vlogging but don’t –
(LESLIE) I don’t even – pfft!
(Laughter) (AMY) Being a wheelchair user I never
thought I would be asked to understudy a character who isn’t a wheelchair user and I
can’t think of many plays, if any
(Mick’s phone bleeps) where there is –
(MICK) Oh, I’ll just turn that off.
(MEL) Oh for goodness sake. (AMY) In the middle of a sentence Mick!
(MICK) Sorry! (AMY) Yeah I can’t think of many plays where there’s
like two wheelchair users so I never thought that I would be able to like understudy. (MICK) That’s what’s so great about this company
in that we have Karina who’s visually impaired who understudies sighted actors. Charly who is…
(V/O) Mick looks very confused. (AMY) Deaf.
(MICK) Deaf! Sorry I had a blank like. Charly who, I was like – er… Charly… (MEL) She became the first signing actor
to cover a role ever I think in British theatre.
(AMY) Yeah, a role that is
normally played by someone who is not signing.
(MEL) Who can speak. (MEL) Not that Charly can’t
speak, she can speak but she chooses to use BSL. (AMY) Come on in guys! We’re joined by
more members at the understudy club! (ALL) (chanting) USC, USC, USC!
(MICK) That means understudy club. (AMY) In the back who are you and who do you
understudy? (HANNAH) Hello, I’m Hannah. In The Taming of the Shrew I understudy Lucentia and
Hortensia and in Measure for Measure I understudy Mariana and Juliet. (ALEXANDER) Hi, I’m
Alexander and in Taming of the Shrew I understudy Bianco and Biondella and
in Measure for Measure I understudy Elbow, Secretary and Claudio. (HANNAH) Oh, I also do Kate Keepdown actually.
(MEL) Oh yeah you do!
(HANNAH) That’s important I forgot.. (MEL) Very important. (AMY) When did you find out you were understudying and how did you feel? (ALEXANDER) I found out right at the beginning, well, when I got the job that I would be under studying but I didn’t know what understudy roles it would be. I think we found out around the same sort of time in
Taming when- what parts we got – which was like I think the third week or rehearsals was it?
(MICK) Yeah, some people were hired knowing that they were understudying specific roles. Most
of the company didn’t know before that week who we were understudying. (MEL) I did.
(MICK) You did.
(AMY) Did you?
(MEL) I did, I knew before I went to the
casting that I was up for Escalus understudy and Vincentia understudy but I got that one. (ALL) Eeeeeyy!! (HANNAH) I definitely didn’t know about Hortensia.I think they gave me Lucentia and then two week later Leigh was like “So, how do you feel about doing Hortensia too?”
(laughter) And I was like “mmmmm…interesting.”
(AMY) That is a lot. (MICK) Oddly, I auditioned for Pompey but knowing that Pompey had already been cast but they
just wanted me to use Pompey to show off my comedic skills for various parts. (AMY) Does anyone want to talk about how understudying works within our company?
(MICK) There’s eighteen
actors in each show. Let’s say David’s off in Measure for Measure…David plays
Pompey so if David was off that means I understudy Pompey so I play his part. I
normally play Elbow. Egg understudies Elbow so that means Egg has to come up
and play Elbow and that means that other people then cover Egg’s officer track
so, like Patrick jumps up I think and Patrick normally does other things but he
just jumps in and does that track so everyone comes together and sort of everyone
shifts around stuff. Some people who aren’t officially understudies for
a part will come in and cover a little thing like people will cover scene
changes and things like that – (MEL) I dangled some keys and I got some extra money for it.
(laughter) (AMY) Boom. (ALEXANDER) If it’s not gonna impact your role too much you
can still keep what you usually do and do your understudy as well.
(AMY) Yeah. (ALEXANDER) So in that
situation I still do my gentleman in Measure for Measure.
(MICK) Yes.
(ALEXANDER) And then I stepped up to do Elbow. (HANNAH) There’s one situation in
Taming of the Shrew where Amelia is Hortensia and I’m the Pedant.
We both understudy each other so what happens if one of us is off, we play both parts which can get quite confusing especially as both parts involve disguise.
(laughter) (MEL) You’re not getting Cooney in to talk about his Cooney swing? (HANNAH) Oh, we do have a swing!
(MICK) We do have a swing! (AMY/HANNAH) We have a swing!
(laughter) (MEL) He plays
Bianco but he covers all of Petruchia’s servants. He’ll kind of fill in whichever gap on the stage.
(HANNAH) He’s done I’d say five variations?
(ALEXANDER) And he hasn’t had any rehearsal – any – well, he
kind of just watched us and kind of just came into the, the dance call right?
(HANNAH) Yeah, he was really good at picking it up. (AMY) I think it’s worth
mentioning our assistant directors at this point who have to sit down and work
out all that kind of, I’m gonna say math but they work out who can cover what tracks.
(HANNAH) Logistically you have to figure that out before casting the understudies that it’s physically possible and that I guess that goes across – it’s not just understudies – it
goes across the season that’s why casting a season’s so complex because
you have to think across three shows. We’ve got to get twenty seven actors
that can all fit into these parts and then you’ve got to get all the understudies to fit all of those parts as well so it’s like a real feat of organisation.
(MEL) It is mathematics isn’t it? (MICK) Another thing to mention about
our amazing assistant directors is not only do they have to do this and they
have to write out the sheets for the understudy cards they’re called so
whenever someone’s off they have the card so everyone can check but they also
rehearse all the understudies. For our two shows which is Shrew and Measure
that is the incredible Leigh Toney and then for As You Like It that is Emma
Baggott. (MEL) I loved the understudy rehearsals mostly
because, because we’re all – this is all our debut season isn’t it? And I think
everybody who does a debut season at the RSC is expected to understudy which
is great, you sort of take that as a given. It was really relaxed and really
warm and friendly and we quickly bonded (AMY) In Clapham when we were rehearsing we
rehearsed most evenings didn’t we? Or quite a few evenings.
(MICK) Yes, so after normal rehearsals were finished. (AMY) Yeah, so some of us had quite long days and then we got a
bit more time in Stratford as well so we were very well prepared I must admit, especially for Shrew it felt like we had a lot of time with Leigh to really feel
comfortable with our parts. Especially us because we weren’t
rehearsing As You Like It whereas the lot who were rehearsing As You Like It
didn’t have as much time as us.
(MICK) Because As You and Shrew rehearsed at the same time.
they ever had to have full company As You Like It rehearsals that freed up
days that we could use for the Shrew understudy rehearsal.
(MICK) It might be worth
mentioning that because we rehearse with Leigh, our assistant director so much that
she also had an input, I think, in who was cast for the understudy roles so I think
who was cast for the understudy roles it’s not set and it’s like a negotiation
between the director and casting and the assistant director and the three of them
sort of have a conversation around it. (AMY) So Thank You Leigh!
(MICK) Thanks Leigh!
(HANNAH) Woo! (MEL) She couldn’t
think of anybody to understudy Barnadine and it was Greg who said “Mel can do it.”
(laughter) (V/O) Cut to black. Cut to Mick and Amy. (MICK) Dance break. (AMY) They dance very badly. (V/O) Cut to black. To be continued…

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3 thoughts on “The RSC Diaries: Understudy Club, Part One!”

  • Really interesting to learn about understudying for the RSC and how its been for you all! Now I kinda wish that I had seen one of you cover a principal role when I saw the shows. I did a production of FAME where I was in the ensemble and understudied Mrs Myers- loved doing rehearsals where I read the part. I look forward to the next Understudy Club video 😀 – do you guys have a logo by any chance? xx

  • This has brightened up a very tough week, thank you!! Wishing you well with the quarantine, would also love to see some non-theatre-y content if the mood takes you!! Light and love <3