Covid caused chaos in theatre, often leaving understudies to hold shows together. Ruby Ablett says it’s time to do more than applaud them.
It’s the final week of the West End run of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a show that premiered at the National Theatre in 2019, and, three lockdowns later, made its transfer to the Duke of York’s Theatre in October 2021. For seven months I have been a part of this extraordinary production as a swing (an actor who covers anything that isn’t a specified role within the show), movement captain (a cast member who runs warm-ups, passes on notes from the Movement Director, keeps the movement parts of the show in shape, supports swings and helps organise them when there are cast absences) and understudy. Reflecting back on what has been a magical job, it’s hard not to be emotional, especially when it has been a lifeline in what has been, and continues to be, a difficult time to be a freelance arts worker.
For years, understudies have been covering for performers in the event of illness and injury, mostly unnoticed and unacknowledged. But since theatres reopened in the second half of 2021, Covid has been cooking up a perfect storm, and understudies have never been busier...Keep reading on Evening Standard.