Meta lockdown comedy featuring David Tennant and Michael Sheen
Finally. There have been dozens of attempts to produce performance art in isolation – audio plays, live-streamed show captures, Zoom-plays (as they should be neologised) – but rarely have they risen to the challenge. Here, at last, is something that does – something that spins the situation, and the production constraints it creates, into delectable drama.
Staged is, on the surface, a simple show. David Tennant and Michael Sheen, co-stars in Amazon’s Good Omens, play their shaggy-haired selves. They’re stuck at home, having been forced to postpone preparing for a production of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. Simon Evans – writer and director of the series, and also featuring as director of the fictional show – coaxes a succession of guest stars into resuming rehearsals online.
But there’s a lot going on underneath the surface: a battle of wits between Tennant and Sheen – the first episode has a great gag about their respective attempts at isolation artwork; an exploration of what isolation does to the ego; and a grand riff on Pirandello’s play itself.
It also intentionally apes that contemporary comedy classic The Trip – Michael Winterbottom’s evergreen series starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon – with its exquisitely meta conceit, plaintive piano score and two excellent central performances.
Tennant and Sheen are excellent, perennially, even when performing as themselves to their own laptops. Here, joined by Evans and by their real-life spouses – the actors Georgia Tennant and Anna Lundberg – they are on top form, crackling with snide chemistry. The whole thing is a treat. Watch it.