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Staged: Can you get beyond the cringe ?


Staged, starring warring luvvies David Tennant and Michael Sheen, has divided the nation. Like a well-known sandwich spread it seems you either love it or hate it. Our critics Barbara Goulden and Peter Walters fall on either side of the fence, but have called a temporary truce over control of the channel hopper to make out their cases.

Cringeworthy! That's my critical opinion of the 15 minute drama series that seems to have divided our locked-down television watching nation, writes Barbara. My husband thinks it's hilarious. But then he and our son also loved the Alan Partridge character which was another send-yourself-up comedy I never found amusing.

The trouble with Staged for me is that it appears far too close to the insecure real-life personnas of two of our best loved performers, who simply have to be ad-libbing some of the lines.

I do understand that many of our best actors have that wary, introverted, looking-over-their shoulders' side, which is why they are so brilliant at playing the part of somebody else. However much I admire these two stars professionally, I don't want to examine their sensitive underbellies, real or imagined. I have to leave the room whenever Staged is on. So just what is it I can't stand? The smack of truth? Instead of such stuff as dreams are made of....our little lives rounded by a sleep? Perhaps we're all getting too much of that at the moment. Unless we work for the NHS.



Is this an ego I see before me? Well, yes it is, writes Peter. And that's the whole point, really.

If you take two of this country's most glittering thespians, David Tennant (ex-Hamlet) and Michael Sheen (once the Jesus Christ of Port Talbot), and stick them in lockdown, reducing them to rehearse by Zoom, you are going to feed their insecurities. And it's fun to watch.

The first series of Staged was a highlight of our pandemic summer, as they tried to hide their disdain for hapless Simon Evans, creator of this wacky project to switch rehearsals for Six Characters In Search Of An Author to video, and struggled unsuccessfully to preserve the thin veneer of friendship and mutual respect that stood between them. In the second series, screening now, all pretence of that is gone as Staged is transferring to the US and our heroes, bearlike Michael and weasely David (Sheen's description, not mine), find themselves dropped in favour of more high-vis 'English' actors for the American market. The real question, of course, is how much of all this is scripted. In real life, how close are Sheen and Tennant (whose name appears first has always been an issue too) to their screen selves, by turns wheedling and volcanic? Only perhaps the women in their lives, who flit across our screens chiefly seen as shadows over their shoulders, can truly answer that. And they're not saying.




Winner!