As lockdown measures begin to ease and businesses reopen their doors, there has been a lot of focus on the effect of quarantine on theatres and whether or not the industry will survive. The crisis has created a lot of negativity for theatres, as it has for many things in our society, but Staged, written and directed by Simon Evans, may be one of the few good things that has come out of this.
The series focuses on exaggerated versions of David Tennant and Michael Sheen, who are rehearsing for a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author, also directed by Evans, over Zoom. The beginning very much has the feel of The Trip as Tennant and Sheen show off their abilities to do accents, but quickly comes into its own originality.
As well as the Zoom calls between the various characters, we also see scenes of home life and familiar sights from around the UK of bare supermarket shelves, empty streets, dedications to the NHS and windows adorned with rainbows and teddy bears. In doing this, the series does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit and daily routine of lockdown life, while happily not commentating in detail on the politics.
The issues around using Zoom which we have all become familiar with are there, from people interrupting each other and connection issues cutting conveniently cutting people off. The body language throughout the series is particularly good, especially capturing the mood and behaviour of people using Zoom.
The chemistry between Tennant and Sheen is excellent as always and the back and forth produces lots of wonderfully awkward humour and laugh out loud moments. The humour is enhanced by their real life partners Georgia Tennant and Anna Lundberg who provide a nice sense of normality as Tennant and Sheen struggle more and more with the situation.
Evans is fantastic as the director at the end of his tether, constantly appearing to be on the edge of breaking down altogether. His never-ending agitation contrasts well with the confident and self-assured character of his real life sister, Lucy Eaton.
This is an incredibly unique comedy which reflects today’s world in all its complex, messed up ways. Guest appearances from Samuel L Jackson and Dame Judi Dench are nothing short of genius and the relationships between all of the cast members are spot on throughout the series. Staged is a wonderful portrayal of the emotional rollercoaster of lockdown life and covers serious issues like health and helplessness in a realistic and identifiable way while wonderfully capturing the surrealness of what we have all been through.
Staged is available to watch on BBC iPlayer https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p08dnl67/staged
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 4th July 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★