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  • Writer's pictureBecky Wallis

Where There Is Thunder, There's A Show That Can Go On

The show must go on.

It’s an age old saying in the world of theatre, and it’s one that celebrates the hard-working individuals who do just that; ensure that the show can indeed go on.

Understudies and swings are perhaps among the most needed members of a theatrical company, for they can cover multiple roles and are able to step in at the drop of a hat. That being said, the understudies (for reasons that I will never understand) are sometimes underappreciated, and some people may consider the understudy to be a lesser, brushing the word aside as if unmentionable. But really, an understudy is no lesser than the leading name, and deserves to be celebrated, appreciated, and cheered on as much as possible.

Over the years, thanks to the tireless work of social media pages such as West End Covers, we have seen more and more understudies being appreciated with many a theatre fan proving willing to drop everything and run to the theatre to see covers treading the boards and I am happy to say that I, for one, am always thrilled to see an understudy on.

But there is one theatre company who perhaps publicly shows appreciation for their understudies more than others, and that would be Mischief Theatre. They even have a special nickname for the performers in their shows that cover multiple shows, and that name is ‘Thunderstudy’.

photo credit @ Harry Boyd via instagram

When I am not Curtains Up, I am Mischief Maker Madness on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, and if you have ever stumbled across my page, you will notice that I use the phrase ‘Thunderstudy Power’ an awful lot, every time that West End Covers announces that an understudy is playing a role in a mischief production. I love to celebrate these performers and love walking in to see a Mischief show and seeing a notice stating that a role would be played by a cover.

Something that is so wonderful about Mischief shows such as ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ and ‘Magic Goes Wrong’ is that although the characters themselves are the same, each individual performer is given the chance to make the character their own be that with little quirks, little moments, or the improv segments. Whatever way, this means that every single show is different, every single time a character is played by a different performer, it’s unique. And that is why I love seeing these shows so much, for I never see the exact same show twice.

And recently when it comes to their incredible team of ‘Thunderstudies’, there was a first with ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ when a double show Saturday saw all of the ‘Thunderstudies’ on cover roles in both the West End and on tour.

In London, the role of Robert was played by Stuart Vincent, the role of Dennis by Jack Whittle, the role of Annie by Roisin Fahey, the role of Sandra by Emily Waters and the role of Trevor by Charlie Richards.

Photo credit @ Emily Waters via Instagram / Charlie Richards Twitter

On the UK Tour, which was playing in Dartford at the time, the role of Robert was played by Will Taylor, the role of Sandra by Clare Noy, the role of Chris by Harry Boyd, the role of Jonathan by Gabriel Paul and the role of Trevor, played instead as a Tessa, was played by Mary McGurk. Sean Carey, who played Jonathan on last year’s tour, also returned to the production to cover the stagehand role.

And it was this touring production, which all of the covers on and Sean returning, which saw me make a mad dash across London, making it to the Orchard Theatre in Dartford just in time after the matinee of Tasting Notes (which is wonderful by the way). I’ve seen this touring cast in action in Plymouth and in Bristol, and I simply couldn’t resist seeing the show again with so many ‘Thunderstudies’ in action. After all, it’s not very often at all that you see this many 2nd and 3rd covers in action with 2nd cover Will Taylor playing Robert, 3rd Cover Gabriel Paul, who normally plays Trevor putting on the purple jacket to play Jonathan and 3rd cover Mary McCurk playing Trevor as a Tessa.

Ever since I first saw that Mischief were allowing male parts to be gender swapped when they first announced a Denise was going on (played by Sally Cheng) instead of a Dennis, I have been so excited to see some girl power being applied to these much-loved characters. I was lucky enough to see Emily Waters playing the role of Denise in London back in April, and I’ve been desperate to see a Tessa ever since. And thanks to Mary McGurk, I finally got to see one.

Photo credit @ Harry Boyd via Instagram

Every ‘Thunderstudy’ adds their own style to the character, and I absolutely love that. I’ve been very lucky with this touring production, having seen all 3 different takes on Robert in the space of 5 days, both a Trevor and a Tessa, 2 different takes on Sandra and 2 different takes on Chris (three if you include the fact that I saw Edi De Melo (currently Max) playing the role of Director Chris in last year’s tour). And that is before I add that I saw Colin Burnicle (currently Chris) as Dennis and Damian James (currently Dennis) as Trevor in London earlier this year.

It was the work of these ‘Thunderstudies’ that allowed the show to go on over the weekend, jumping in and covering roles with little warning. Without them, we wouldn’t have had the show and the wonderful laughter that it brought to the audiences that night. And I am very thankful for them for saving the day.

Long story short, it is so wonderful to not only see these incredible performers, who all have to learn multiple roles, getting to play multiple roles and getting the love and appreciation from the audience, but it is also amazing to see Mischief theatre as a company celebrating them and thanking them for all that they do.

Where there is thunder, there’s a show that can go on. Thunderstudy Power!


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