David Kristopher Brown can currently be found at The Duchess Theatre where he is a ‘thunderstudy’ covering multiple roles in the hit comedy The Play That Goes Wrong. Previously, he has performed with many shows such as The Phantom Of The Opera, Sister Act, The Blues Brothers and The Miracle on 34th Street. I was lucky enough to speak to David about his time with The Play That Goes Wrong and his time in the industry, as well as talking about how it feels to be an understudy in a time where sometimes they are sadly under appreciated.
How did you get into acting? Is it something that you have always wanted to do?
Well, I always loved making my family and friends laugh from as long as I can remember. I was a really loud and hyperactive child and growing up, my Mum and Dad lived next to their best friends whose daughter went to drama classes and they suggested that I go to burn off some energy… I fell in love with it instantly!
Have you always had an interest in comedy?
I suppose subconsciously I have been, yeah. I was always a chunky kid at school but I never had any major trouble with bullying or anything because I was able to make the other kids laugh. Watching a comedy, in any form, is always my go-to if I want to relax too! So, yeah I think that I have always been innately drawn to it.
How does it feel to be a part of The Play The Goes Wrong? After five years in the West End, it has proven itself to be a firm favourite with many theatre-goers. What is is about is that makes people want to see it?
Being a part of ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ has basically been my ultimate dream job since I saw it six years ago at The Trafalgar Studios – before it even had a second act! To think that I am now a part of it is super surreal! Especially as I used to work on the stage door at the theatre whilst the show was on here just a couple of years ago! The journey has been crazy! I still very frequently have moments of realisation that this is actually my life! Haha!
I think that the reason why it resonates with so many people is that it covers so many different comedic styles so well that there is something for everyone. Also, it’s ultimately one big massive underdog story – this hapless group just trying their best to put on a show and no matter how badly it is going, they never give up until the very end!
Can you tell us anything about the rehearsal process for The Play That Goes Wrong? I imagine that it is quite difficult to rehearse as everything has to be so precise?
The rehearsal process for the show is fairly intense, however, the show has been running for 5 years in the West End so there is a level of organisation which means that you start with the most difficult part (the last ten minutes) and get that down, then go back to the start and work through… But we would run that last section every day just to get the choreography into our bodies.
The other main difference that I found in rehearsals is that we would tag team in and out with the principles so that we could start getting the show into our bodies as quickly as possible – something that I have never experienced when I have covered in the part! That was really amazing from the Thunderstudies point of view especially as the show is so physical.
What is it like to an understudy, covering multiples roles? I am guessing that you have to be ready for anything. Is that true?
Being an understudy is awesome! Especially on a show like ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ where the characters are all SO different from each other! It really gives you a chance to create new and interesting characters (particularly for a character actor like me who tends to be cast in fairly similar roles). I have played parts in this show, like Dennis and Max, that I genuinely never thought in a million years that I would get a chance to play!
Of course, the sheer volume of learning is daunting at first (I was lucky that I was really familiar with the show already so I had an idea of it) but once the show is learned, for me, it’s just super exciting never knowing what any given day will bring… even if you think that you do!
It is wonderful to see The Play That Goes Wrong and Mischief Theatre as a whole being so supportive of their covers and understudies. Would you like to see other productions follow suit?
Absolutely. We are all incredibly grateful for the support that Mischief shows us. I think that being an understudy *can* be a bit of a thankless task, especially for those covering celebrities or big names. Having that support and recognition just allows us never to feel like that and I feel that everyone deserves that respect.
Can I ask where the name ‘Thunderstudies’ came from? It’s such a lovely way to show appreciation for the understudies and swings.
I believe that Sean Carey invented and started using the term ‘Thunderstudies’ when he was an understudy in The Play That Goes Wrong. I was working on stage door at The Duchess at the time, so I knew all of the cast and how awesome they were and I loved how powerful that term was! So I felt compelled to continue using it for all the understudies out there because as you say it’s a celebration of how badass they all are!
Do you think that there is any reasoning as to why some productions choose not to celebrate their understudies and covers like Mischief Theatre and The Play That Goes Wrong do?
I don’t really know how things work but I would like to think that it doesn’t come from a place of companies actively choosing not to celebrate their understudies… It may just be a habit. Celebrating understudies seems to be a fairly recent thing and maybe some companies just haven’t quite got into doing it yet, especially longer running shows.
It is amazing to see Mischief Theatre growing and continuing to create new shows such as Groan Ups and Magic Goes Wrong. Why do you think that the company has such a popular appeal?
# I think that there are whole host of reasons why the Mischief shows are so popular! The main one being that the founding members are just absolutely amazing at what they do – both performing and writing! They also revived a whole genre of theatre, old fashioned English farce, which really wasn’t done in a massively mainstream way at the time The Play That Goes Wrong became successful.
Also, their shows are generally very family orientated (although Groan Ups does venture into some more adult territory) meaning that you know that you can take anyone from 8 to 80 years old and there will most likely be something for them to enjoy! Finally, I found that there was a level of excitement from sharing the shows with people who I knew hadn’t seen them before – because they were so elaborate and precise, so people like to come back time and time again, both for their own enjoyment and to share the shows with people they know will enjoy them too!
If you could play any character in a play or a musical, which character would it be and why?
Honestly (and I’m not just saying this because I am in the show) but for the six years, it’s been Robert in The Play That Goes Wrong, which, when I finish my contract, I will have played around 90 times and it blows my mind! I’d love to play Dewey in School of Rock and Francis Henshall in One Man, Two Guvnors, but really I would love to create something new. That is a BIG goal of mine
If you could go back in time and see your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?
Give yourself a break with the negative talk. Stop comparing yourself to others. You’ll love weightlifting if you give it a shot.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the performing arts industry?
Be yourself. The thing that makes you uniquely you is exactly what will make you valuable to a project/director. Don’t try and be what you think people want you to be. Just be your amazing self!
Photo Credit – David on Twitter (@TheDaveMonster) and Louisa Sexton-Worley Photography (@Louisaswphoto)