The Understudy produced by Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield*

Recorded and produced during lockdown, David Nicholl’s acclaimed book about life working in the theatre has been given a new life in the form of a radio play written by Henry Filloux-Bennett. Created in order to raise vital funds for theatre based charities, the entertaining drama follows Stephen McQueen who has been cast as the understudy to famous Hollywood actor Josh Harper in the West End. Despite being a failing husband, father and actor, Stephen’s life turns more gloomy when he starts to fall for Josh Harper’s wife. Chaos and drama ensues as Stephen has to decide between his friendship with Josh and potentially getting his big break or love.

I was super excited when I heard about this project. I read the book many, many years ago. What really impressed me with the script in this production is that Henry Filloux-Bennett captures David Nicholls’ charm and wit so wonderfully in the writing. Although, I was glad to hear the story had been updated to include modern references to TikTok, Snapchat and Uber. All of which didn’t even exist when I read the book. Russell Tovey plays the main character Stephen, who was delightful in the role. The supporting cast also had a roster of names including Sheila Atim, Emily Atack, Sarah Hadland and Mina Anwar all of whom gave wonderful performances. Especially as the actors weren’t in the room with each other, it’s a testament to their talents that they can record their performances in isolation and yet make you believe they’re backstage at a theatre, in a bar in Soho or in a flat in Chiswick.

Now, I do have to admit that I’m not an avid listener of audio only stories so I don’t have a lot of experience in listening to these type of productions. But I thoroughly enjoyed The Understudy. I do also recommend checking out the novel by David Nicholls as well. I hope that more can continue during this troubling times of theatres being closed. We need to show that theatrical arts are invaluable and we must show our support when necessary. We must also lobby the government to dip into their wallets and put money on the table so theatres up and down the country can continue to survive.

For more information on the production please visit

Until next time,

Hayley Sprout logo

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