Hello Ladies & Gents,

How are we all? I hope you’re well. Many apologies for the maaahussive delay in this blog. I will try and justify this by telling you all about our understudy runs for The Duchess of Malfi and The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich. Before I kick off, I would like to say thanks to those people who I do and don’t know, to friends and colleagues, and more, telling me how much they enjoyed and connected with the last blog I wrote. I was really glad it hit the mark so thanks for reaching out.

Since the last time I spoke to you, I have re-rehearsed two shows, played pretty large roles in the understudy runs of both Malfi and Mrs Rich whilst performing the actual ‘normal’ shows at nighttime, taken part in the Shakespeare birthday celebrations and, during my weekend off, run the London Marathon (with Sandy from Mrs Rich and Miss Littlewood). On top of normal life, it’s been a little manic.

The understudy cast of The Duchess of Malfi on stage, drenched in blood
The understudies perform The Duchess of Malfi.
© Graeme Brookes Browse and license our images

I’ve never been an understudy before, which is quite weird considering I’ve been acting so long. Lots of folk think understudies get to ‘go on’ a few times a week or step in whenever the lead actor fancies a day off, but it doesn’t work like that. The actors are still contractually obligated to perform, so I am just the ‘emergency’ really. As actors, we all have engrained the mentality that 'the show must go on' so it’s rare for an understudy to perform (though I shout out to my friend Tom McCarron who went on as two different characters in one week in a production of Wait Until Dark I was in late last year).

The RSC does something super cool and quite unique – it has an understudy show especially for us to show off our acting chops. This is a big deal for an RSC debutant like me, as I haven’t stepped into the biggest roles in the world; however, in both shows (particularly Malfi) I am understudying big roles, so this has allowed me the opportunity to do my thaang for the casting team, directors and more in the hope of working here again. It's so nice that backstage team see you do more (like Rach from Wigs, who made my day after saying something nice after the Malfi show).

Due to the depth of talent here in our company, the quality of performances blew me (and I hope the audiences) away. A special bit of love needs to be show for Emily Johnstone in Mrs Rich, who understudied four different roles, including one scene in which they all appeared. It was so chaotically beautiful and Emily is such a star, trust me!

For me personally, it was super special for my family and friends to come and see me playing a big role on the RSC stage, because if I never come back here, they can say they saw me do that. It means that much to me that I kept the programme for both shows so I can pop them in a frame. It was only back in late 2016 that I saw Sir Antony Sher do his King Lear when I took my old man with me for his first trip to the RSC aged 62, so for me to perform on that stage meant a lot.

Graeme Brookes stands in a puddle of blood on stage
Graeme in performance.
© Graeme Brookes Browse and license our images

As actors, obviously we always want to be the lead and to be featured prominently but sometimes you simply aren’t. That’s ok as long as you know at some point you will be allowed the ‘chance’. These runs are that chance. Massive tip of the hat to the RSC. I hope more theatre companies follow suit.

Also, thanks to everyone who donated for me running the London Marathon - so kind! I raised just over £2,500 for the National Deaf Children’s Society and managed to finish (which in that heat was a surprise) in just over five hours, so I was a happy camper.

Anyway, I have to get ready as I am on stage in Mrs Rich in 15 mins so I best get my costume on. I will try not to leave it so long next time.

Take care.

Love, G. x

Graeme Brookes

Graeme Brookes

Graeme Brookes has been an actor for 13 years. He is a native of the Black Country, supports Walsall FC, likes Vimto and Pick & Mix. Follow Graeme on Twitter @Mr_Brookes04

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