So there is been a lot of news at the moment linking to understudies in the westend, with the whole Sheridan Smith situation and add to the mix Glenn Close and Matthew Perry, there has been a lot of it going around. Most stories however are focusing on whether you have the right to see the “Star” or not, now what I would like to highlight is when people want to see a particular understudy, should they be allowed to have the opportunity to do so.
There are many people who are in the westend and are covering for leading roles who will tweet when they have dates to cover, or tweet the day they are on. However it seems recently that not all companies want this to be done, some companies would rather they don’t tweet to alert their fans to what, may well be, the only time they are going to be on covering this role. Giving their fans, friends, family the chance to come and see them. I can slightly understand this being an issue if they are covering for a “star” as people may get funny over not seeing them, however there are many people out there, including myself, who absolutely love to see an understudy and love the opportunity to watch some of my favourite performers be given the chance to perform in a leading role. It has come apparent recently that many companies do not want performers to tweet at all when they are on, they don’t seem to want the world to know that their unsung heroes are getting the chance to shine, to allow the performer themselves to have the support, they deserve, from their fans.
I find this all very strange, the fact that companies hire covers, means they must know that without them some days the show just simply couldn’t go ahead, so if they know how important these people are, why do they shy away from celebrating them?
It is bad enough that award ceremonies won’t recognise understudies and swings. These people have to learn multiple tracks and be ready at the drop of a hat to step up and cover a different track, sometimes half way through a show. This maybe someone in the ensemble or with a supporting role having to know their own track and that of a lead, or it maybe a swing who has to basically know every single track on the stage. Some nights I have been at shows where covers/swings have basically saved the show and without them the show would have had to be cancelled. Yet year after year the awards come around and there is no mention of them, no award for working their arses off all year and sometimes getting penalised for wanting to share their pride at being on. These awards celebrate, and quite rightly, the amazing leads and lets face it, we have quite a few currently in the westend. But these people learn one track, they do that same track every show. They may play around with it a little but basically their role is the same each show. Yet the people who could be playing 2-8, or maybe more, tracks a week, sometimes covering multiple tracks in one show, these people don’t get celebrated, these people sometime go their entire career being some of the best talent you will ever see on a stage, yet they never get the break they deserve as basically they are too talented to be a lead, they are an asset to the ensemble.
So basically my suggestion to these shows is screw those people who will kick off about not seeing the “star”, stick to your policies that a certain performer cannot be guaranteed and tell the world, loud and proud, when your covers are going on!
Understudies should be celebrated, not silenced!