ACTORS ARE OFTEN TEASED about their dependence on an audience. What should they do, then, when it suddenly disappears overnight? One answer, at least for now, might lie in turning to their colleagues for friendly reassurance, if not always for guaranteed applause.
The first series of Staged, in six fifteen-minute episodes, was broadcast in June last year; a second series, presumably made during the partial easing of restrictions, is also now available. At first the show hardly seemed original. Written and directed by Simon Evans, it is led by two well-known actors --David Tennant and Michael Sheen--the initial idea being, perhaps, that the pair would appear to adlib about their individual careers, past, present and future, much as Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon chat while eating and Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse reminisce while fishing. The difference would be that whereas previously the conversationalists might travel from restaurant to restaurant or river to river, Tennant and Sheen would be stuck at home video-calling during the lockdown, frustratedly but amusingly tied to their computers. So it turned out, although a tension, an underlying nervousness, was palpable. Rarely mentioned, the pandemic was always present, occasionally surfacing in external shots of melancholy London streets. There was a single brush with the physical reality of Covid-19, although the show's comic demands meant that this came to nothing. Not that the pair were alone by any means. They had company, both actual in the shape of partners and children, and virtual: the director Evans playing himself along with a couchload of celebrities from Michael Palin to Whoopi Goldberg, brought in to comment on the hopefully hilarious badinage. Evans was smart enough to ensure that Staged...