The Understudy, 4 Stars

Canal Café Theatre and Russell Lucas present

The Understudy by Theresa Rebeck

Canal Café Theatre
Tuesday 21st February – Saturday 11th March 2017

“Full of laugh-out-loud comedy and vivacious satire, The Understudy dissects the backstage friction
of a frenzied understudy rehearsal of a long lost Kafka play about to be staged on Broadway.
Charged with running the rehearsal, Roxanne finds her professional and personal lives colliding when Harry, a jobbing actor, is cast as understudy to Jake, a mid-level action star yearning for legitimacy. As Harry and Jake find their common ground, Roxanne tries to navigate the rehearsal with a stoned lighting board operator, an omnipresent intercom system, the producers threatening to close the show and her own mixed feelings about both actors and her past. Will the show go on?”

Writer Theresa Rebeck
Director Russell Lucas
LX/SFX Designer Stuart Glover

Samuel John – Harry
Emma Taylor – Roxanne
Leonard Sillevis – Jake

Review by Richard Lambert, 4 Stars

This is one of the funniest shows of the “play within a play” genre! The Understudy is deemed not good enough to tread the boards of his fellow greats with cynicism surrounding how he got the role. The lead has so much money that nothing is real anymore. The Stage Manager had her heart broken by the Understudy – a jilted bride. The Stage Manager is stoned and incompetent. And the 2nd lead isn’t supposed to be that good (in his role as an actor – Samuel John is actually an amazing actor!) but has been in commercially successful disaster movies.

The Script is punch after punch laugh out loud! With a 360 degree audience it can feel a little odd when you do laugh out loud and everyone in the audience can see you do so, however, once the audience got over this the show was a hit!

The thing about a show that goes wrong is that everything has to be done perfectly. The Snap Blackouts that shouldn’t be there but which happen in this show because its supposed to go wrong, have to be spot on and exact – otherwise the script and the performance just don’t work. They nailed it! Despite being at a Preview performance before the official Press Launch, the show was spot on! Stuart Glover‘s Technical Design was sensitive to the piece whilst deliberately glaring where it was meant to be. Another nice touch was the pub window curtains left open and an outdoor balcony light (the theatre is on the 1st floor) occasionally used to stream in Bright White light literally from outside through the window and into the theatre.

The theatre is quite delightful. Slightly odd-shaped but used to advantage by Director Russell Lucas. It feels comfortable and sits well in the Little Venice area of town above a traditional pub serving hot meals.

Location Canal Café Theatre, Delamere Terrace, London W2 6ND, 020 7289 6054

How to get there The nearest underground stations are Warwick Avenue (on the Bakerloo line), Royal Oak (on the Hammersmith and City line) and Paddington (on the District, City and Bakerloo lines). The nearest rail station is Paddington. The number 6, 46 and 187 buses all stop outside Warwick Avenue tube station. The number 18 bus also stops nearby.

Box Office Tickets are available priced £13.50/£12 concession, booking and membership fees may apply.

Available online from and on 020 7289 6054.