Michael Sheen and David Tennant join forces again following Good Omens playing a version of themselves in lockdown, in their own houses, with their own partners and (off-camera) children.
In six short episodes the actors decide to rehearse their postponed West End play over video call, with all the distractions, angst, and frictions of “working from home” in an industry which thrives on theatricality.
I love the overlapping conversations, the lockdown haircuts, the peeks into real living spaces, the intensity and total boredom of isolation. And of course the ongoing bickering of performers over billing and stardom. The very title, Staged, is a wink and a nod to the play-acting between this pair of good friends, and their enjoyment of the piece is obvious.
Hellos, haggis and heaths, competition between creatives, and the one-upmanship you get between frenemies make this an amusing piece, and the inclusion of Georgia Tennant and Anna Lundberg gives the female voice within the male ego pressure cooker that is Staged.
I loved the episode that tries to push out Michael for an actor who “is a big deal”, where the comedy starts to take flight, with a special appearance which will make you roll in your virtual aisles (“who the f— is Michael Sheen?”). And keep watching to the end of the final one.
Director Simon Evans appears regularly as a mousy version of himself, parodying the process of building a show, and sinking into a William H Macyish stupor in a call with guest player Nina Sosanya, playing the only fictional character (the one who backs the play).
The shots of a deserted Thames and West End brings the outside into the kitchens of Tennant and Sheen as they trade tales of Shakespearean monarchs and irritating neighbours. They are as stir crazy in lockdown as the rest of us – which is a comfort, somehow.
Pointedly amusing and bringing up the bile and bite behind the glitter of theatre, while retaining great affection for it, Staged is a welcome addition to the lockdown process, and watching Tennant and Sheen bickering over one line while their director metaphorically collapses is such fun.
Staged is available in its entirety on BBCiPlayer until summer 2021.