Comic art imitates life under lockdown
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.
David Tennant, left, and Michael Sheen, above, in Staged