Actress Louisa Sexton made her West End Debut this year in the hilarious The Play That Goes Wrong at The Duchess Theatre covering the roles of Sandra and Annie in this laugh a minute production. I was very lucky to be able to talk to Louisa about her time with the Mischief Theatre show and life as an understudy in the industry.
How did you get into performing? Is it something that you always wanted to do?
I have always loved performing and especially improvisation! I love making people laugh and being silly so it definitely something that I have always wanted to do.
How does it feel to be a part in The Play That Goes Wrong and for the show to have become such a hit?
I feel unbelievably lucky to be a part of The Play That Goes Wrong! The show was already a hit by the time I joined so even when I got the call to audition, I couldn’t believe it. Now being a part of it is amazing as we are all like an extended family and every day we laugh together. Plus, it’s special making our audiences laugh and hopefully giving them an escape for a couple of hours.
Can you tell us anything about the rehearsal process for The Play That Goes Wrong? Is it quite hard to learn as everything has to be so precise?
For our rehearsals for the West End Production, we actually spent a lot of time rehearing ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’ so that we could understand what rehearsals would have been like for our Cornley characters and know what they were expecting for their opening night. Sean Turner encouraged us understudies to get up as much as the principal cast in rehearsals so we always felt like an ensemble rather than there being a separation between principal cast and the understudies.
The show has not long celebrated its fifth year in the west end. What is it about The Play That Goes Wrong that makes people want to see it?
This show has had such a wonderful success story because it is genuinely hilarious. It is jam packed with fun and really helps you to forget about your troubles. I also think that the misfortunes and mishaps that happen are relatable to every person in some way – so watching it on stage is a way to laugh at yourself as much as you are laughing at what is happening to the characters.
How does it feel to be an understudy in the industry and on this show? I imagine that you have to be ready for anything.
This is my first theatre job and understudy job, and I feel so lucky as Mischief Theatre are so supportive of us. We have lots of chances to go on and scheduled shows so that friends and family can book in advance which may not happen in other shows. We always have to be ready to go on so every day we warm up with the rest of the cast and have to be match fit every day. It can be stressful at times… not knowing when you may be going on, but ultimately that is what makes it exciting as you never know what could happen!
It’s wonderful to see The Play That Goes Wrong and Mischief theatre as a whole celebrating and appreciating their understudies and covers so publicly. Would you like to see other shows follow the example and do the same?
Definitely! When you feel appreciated, it makes you want to work even harder and give the best performance possible! Mischief Theatre have been exceptional on this front as we always feel supported, encouraged and appreciated. I am also so grateful for West End Covers, they do amazing work in posting tweets daily letting everyone know which understudies are on in which shows. They are amazing!
Why do you think it’s important that understudies, alternates and swings are shown appreciation?
I think that understudies may be seen as second best in some people’s opinion, so the more that they are shown appreciation and acknowledged by the companies, the less (hopefully) people will have this opinion. So many people have said to me ‘I couldn’t tell you were an understudy’ thinking that it is a compliment when it is putting us understudies down. We are as good as principal cast members and we have to learn more than one part, and constantly be ready to go on to perform at a moments notice. I’d love audience members to be excited to see something different – that is what makes live theatre so exciting! Every show is different!
What is the best thing about being involved with The Play That Goes Wrong?
The people- we are a family. Every day I laugh and genuinely have the best time!
It’s amazing to see Mischief theatre doing so well and continuing to create new shows. Why do you think the company has done so well over recent years?
Mischeif Theatre has brought back old fashioned fun! No crude jokes or swearing etc… Just good clean fun for the whole family. I think that it is so rare currently for every member of a family to be able to enjoy something together no matter what their interest or age is etc. They also have an amazing ability to laugh at themselves, not to mention be really bloody talented! They weren’t afraid to just go for it!
If you could play any role in a play or a musical, what character would it be and why?
Good question! I would love to play Madame Thénardier in Les Mis when I am older… but right now my dream is to work at particular theatres rather than roles… The National and Soho Theatre are next on my list!
If you could go back in time and see your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?
My advice would be to work hard and believe in yourself! And don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. Trust the timing, it’s all going to work out just fine!
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to go into the performing arts industry?
My advice would be to watch as many plays/ tv shows/ films as possible and learn your craft. Remember the industry is still an industry and you’ve sometimes got to get your business head on. Work hard, work hard, work hard! Audition for the national youth theatre and get involved in any local clubs as possible. Don’t wait for it to come to you… go out and get it!