Michael Sheen and David Tennant returned for a special segment of Staged for Comic Relief Red Nose Day this evening on BBC One in the UK. Yup, they're still at it. Staged 1592 features William Shakespeare (Tennant) and Christopher Marlowe (Sheen) in lockdown gossiping and bitching about being asked to write a sonnet or poem for charity during the Pandemic.
That's the Pandemic of 1592. Yes, there was a plague raging through England at the time and the populace had to lock down then as well. Ben Elton's Shakespeare sitcom Upstart Crow did a whole Christmas Special in December set in that lockdown last year starring David Mitchell and Gemma Whelan as a clever analogy to the current Pandemic. It was very clever and witty. Now it's Staged's turn.
As the official press goes, "The UK's biggest night of comedy and entertainment is back, bringing together stars of stage, screen and the movies for an epic three-hour comedy special, entertaining the nation with hilarious sketches, live performances, big surprises, and stunning music acts – all to raise much-needed cash for good causes at home and across the world."
So Staged 1592 looks a little like an odd dispatch from an alternate universe. Shakespeare and Marlowe speak and behave remarkably like "Tennant" and "Sheen" in all their bitchiness and pettiness. There are remarkable parallels with the first episode of Staged… only it's Shakespeare and Marlowe. That is, until Sir Lenny Henry, who's overseeing this year's Red Nose Day breaks the 4th Wall to interject and tell Tennant and Sheen to cut it out. This is entirely consistent with Staged as a series. There's always going to be a big celebrity cameo, and they made it fit in the framework of Comic Relief and Red Nose Day. Once again, creator and writers Simon Evans is the butt of the joke, even if he doesn't appear in the story. All this to hold off on Tennant and Sheen just doing what their one job was supposed to be: thank everyone for their generous donations.
We would like to take this opportunity to remind US fans that Series 2 of Staged is now streaming on Hulu. It is even nastier and therefore funnier than the first series.