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The Understudy
(part four)

By February 16, 2022Acting, Stage

This is the grand finale scene from As You Like It. I can see Ray Llewellyn’s head and shoulders, between two lady’s heads, at the back, a third of the way from the left edge of the photograph. And I’m there too, but not as Adam – he gets written out in Act II and theatre budgets required maximal use of resources, which meant that I had to unpick myself as fast as poss. from Adam and fill the crowd in various scenes for the rest of the performance. I seem to remember trying to scramble back under my wig for the curtain call, so as to be acknowledged as Adam – not as a walk-on!

The great wrestling competition in As You Like It.

There were two older ladies in the company who understudied the mature women characters. Nancye Stewart was contracted specifically to cover Fay Compton. Nancye came from a well-known theatre family and had become something of a star in Australia. She was delighted to try her luck, once more, in Britain. The other older actress was Mary Hignett. They jointly sent me a good luck telegram before I opened as Adam. It was my first experience of seasoned performers, as it were, ‘taking me under their wing’. I believe they felt sorry for my having to sell myself to this difficult trade plastered with false hair and inches of slap. It happened a couple more times, as I relate in Book One and on this site.

This is the ladies’ telegram.