The Understudy by David Nicholls

The Understudy

David Nicholls

Stephen is understudy in a West End theatre for charismatic Josh Harper. Josh seems to have everything that Stephen doesn't and everything that Stephen wants - the lead role, good looks, charm and a very attractive wife. The thin dividing line between comedy and tragedy is in full force here. Stephen is such a likeable chap that you want his life to be transformed, but you can't help thinking that he doesn't help himself!


Then the red light in the wings changed to green, his cue to enter, and Stephen rolled his shoulders, cleared his throat and stepped out onto the stage. There was a time when walking on stage might have given him a little thrill, but frankly, this late into a long run, there was more adrenalin in trying to cross Shaftesbury Avenue ....Think ghostly, he told himself. My motivation is to open the door in a ghostly manner ....Now close the door, but not too fast, he thought, and slowly closed the door. He stood perfectly still as the stage lights faded on a slow count of ten, then as soon as the applause began, turned and walked swiftly off the stage .... And that was it - walk on (ghostly), open door (slowly), bow (sombrely), close door (slowly), walk off (quickly). Room for interpretation was slight. An old theatrical saying has it that there is no such thing as a small part. This was that small part.

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