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Staged is back on our screens, and this time David Tennant and Michael Sheen are bickering over an American remake of their own series.


BWW Review: STAGED, SERIES 2, BBC OneAt the start of the first lockdown, Staged became an instant hit on the BBC.

A story told across Zoom calls, it saw Michael Sheen and David Tennant playing exaggerated versions of themselves, as they rehearsed for a play virtually. While they deal with work stresses and friendship fallouts, their (real-life) partners Georgia Tennant and Anna Lundberg do their best to stop the squabbling and keep things going during an unprecedented time.

Partly scripted and partly improvised, it was superbly written and featured incredible guest stars including Dame Judi Dench, Adrian Lester, and Samuel L. Jackson. Unsurprisingly, it quickly became a hit with viewers.

The second series focuses on Staged's success, and turns it into a fictional story heading for an American remake. A very meta plot twist from the start, the opening episodes see the show's (real-life) writer and director Simon Evans heading off to USA, leaving a disgruntled Sheen and Tennant behind. The pair soon find out that the American execs don't want them involved, and just want them to chat to potential replacements to give advice and read over lines. This leads to squabbling, farcical tricks to remove the competition and even more stress for Georgia, Lundberg and Lucy Eaton (Evans' sister) to deal with.

Moving the story on beyond lives in lockdown and focusing on Staged as a wider project allow for development, a fresh narrative and, most importantly, something else for Tennant and Sheen to comically bicker about. From cancelled work trips and home-schooling to missing the weddings of loved ones, this harsh reality is carefully woven in without causing an overwhelmingly sombre tone or losing any of the comedy.

The cast are all exceptional performers, and because their co-stars are their real-life partners, friends, and colleagues, they all bounce off each other with unbeatable chemistry and naturally engrossing dialogue.

One of the highlights of the first series was the friendship between Tennant and Sheen, particularly their moments of mutual frustration. This genuine and beautiful bond between the pair continues on its return, with a mix of hilariously over-the-top rants and heart-breaking frustration at how exhausted they can each make the other because they care so much. Going beyond the comic element of this tension and delving into genuine emotion creates raw and intense moments, making Staged so much more than a virtual comedy.

While Tennant and Sheen's scenes are a delight to watch, there are also standout moments involving the women - in particular, the scenes where they record a badly written comic script for a charity event (written by Evans) where the trio chat about the poor quality of the writing and how it doesn't reflect what women would actually say. As well as being amusing, these observations and reflections on the experiences of female creatives are well executed, with important points intelligently raised amongst the chuckles.

One of the things that Staged became celebrated for was its celebrity cameos, with A-listers dropping in throughout. Those hoping for more guest appearances are in for a treat, as Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Ewan McGregor, Cate Blanchett, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and more all join the video calls. Whoopi Goldberg is a particular highlight, appearing in multiple episodes as an American agent telling off Sheen and Tennant for their mischievous antics. Having so many star spots could have easily taken away from the core narrative, but they are handled so naturally and with clear purpose that they only add to the comedy and to a show that is a complete delight from first to last.

Staged series one and two is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Photo credit: Simon Ridgeway and Paul Stephenson/GCB Films/Infinity Hill /BBC

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From This Author Eleni Cashell