Comic art im­i­tates life un­der lock­down

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Mon­day, 8.30pm, ABC Com­edy and iView

An in­creas­ing num­ber of sto­ries, nar­ra­tive and non­fic­tion, will be set against the lock­down sce­nario as cre­atives dream and fid­get in equal mea­sure dur­ing these sin­gu­larly un­prece­dented times. Some will have larger and thus more pol­ished bud­gets than oth­ers, and such is the case with Staged. Across six half-hours, pre­sum­ably as­sem­bled on the fly but ex­hibit­ing a pleas­ing and re­as­sur­ing mix of the scripted and im­pro­vised, two of the bet­ter and more hard­work­ing ac­tors out there at the mo­ment have some fun play­ing fic­tion­alised ver­sions of them­selves to pass their time, and ours, by do­ing what they do best. If these kinds of pro­grams are the wave of the near fu­ture, Staged sets a bar just high enough to be note­wor­thy.

In last week’s de­but, Eng­land’s lock­down has cut short the newly be­gun re­hearsals for a Lon­don play set to star Michael Sheen (seen re­cently peo­ple need when this whole thing passes,” he says, some­what nobly. In truth, Si­mon’s lofty am­bi­tions mask in­se­cu­rity and in­ep­ti­tude. He ends up crash­ing at the house of his sis­ter Lucy (Lucy Ea­ton), whom he thought was in the south of France with her boyfriend but has re­turned and is an­noyed at both men. He also is fend­ing off agent Jo (Nina Sosanya), who’s scep­ti­cal of his di­rec­to­rial strat­egy.

In Mon­day’s episode, David’s part­ner Ge­or­gia (Ge­or­gia Ten­nant) asks him to mind the kids while she puts the fin­ish­ing touches on her novel, and Michael, alarmed that he and his wife Anna (Anna Lund­berg) are drink­ing too much, de­cides to off­load their emp­ties into the bin of the el­derly lady next door.

Through­out, Michael and David bicker over who gets top billing in the play and med­i­tate on art, the game of Bat­tle­ship and hag­gis.

As the se­ries pro­gresses a trio of guest stars drops in to pro­vide coun­sel and guid­ance, though iden­ti­fy­ing them by name would spoil the sur­prise; suf­fice it to say that in the in­ter­con­nected realm of show busi­ness the most un­likely yet some­how log­i­cal re­la­tion­ships may be forged.

In the real world, Evans was on the verge of di­rect­ing his in­ter­na­tional fea­ture film de­but in Cam­bo­dia when the pan­demic hit, so he and fel­low writer Phin Glynn came up with the idea for Staged when the artis­tic direc­tor of the theatre for whom he was pre­par­ing Tom Stop­pard’s The Real Thing sug­gested on­line re­hearsals. Glynn knew Ten­nant and Ten­nant brought in new mate Sheen. “I hope the real Si­mon Evans is not quite as in­ept,” Evans said to one jour­nal­ist. But, in the end, the play’s the thing.

Staged,

David Ten­nant, left, and Michael Sheen, above, in Staged

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