It was inevitable. The guys are falling apart in this action-packed (not!) episode of Staged. Lockdown does this to people. David Tennant is lying on his couch and boring the crap out of Michael Sheen in an unofficial therapy season. These two are the last guys who should ever act as therapists for each other. We get to see why before the opening credits are even over. "At least they have each other?" Lucy (Lucy Eaton) asks of Georgia (Georgia Tennant) and Anna (Anna Lundberg). The wives, who see things clearly, are not so sure.
Michael has a glimmer of hope: he's been invited to be best man for his oldest friend who now lives in New York – a chance to get out of the house! To get on a plane! To travel! To be out in the world! David has no such luck. He's cooped up at home. And if he doesn't play ball and make it right with Mary by working with the actors who want to play him and Michael in the US remake of the show, he might be unemployable. The same goes for Michael. This is their punishment, their community service.
Simon, the show's creator, writer, and director, as played by Simon Davis, is also having a crisis. Everyone is forgetting that he actually wrote the show. He says people think Michael and David improvised the entire series. This gives them a small measure of joy, especially when they get to rub it in. "We improved it immeasurably!" is something actors love to say given half a chance, and perhaps they're right! Simon is terrified of losing his place in the project and getting dumped. He begs them to remind the actors they talk to that he actually the lines they're auditioning with. This only gives David and Michael a golden opportunity to blame Simon for any shortcomings in the writing when the actors complain. Pettiness is the happy handmaiden of comedy.
And who's in the audition merry-go-round this time? Why, Christophe Waltz trying out for Michael for starters, who immediately says he doesn't like the script. "Well, Simon Davis wrote it," David tells him with a calculated nonchalance. Waltz thinks the writing is too mean, too cruel, which surprises David since he and Michael where just being themselves. Meanwhile, Michael is auditioning Ewan McGregor, who suspects Simon of being anti-Scottish because he finds the "David" of the script simply awful. Again, cruel.
Waltz thinks Michael is an insensitive sociopath and McGregor can't get past how whiny he finds David. The meta hall of mirror spins and spins. And David just has to wind up Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville by confusing him about going off-script and doing more improvisation. Some actors are just not into improvisation at all. Then Michael has to audition Ken Jeong for David. Have you ever sat through an audition watching an actor who is totally wrong for the part? This is a new ring of Hell for Michael – the look of utter horror on his face over Ken's horrific mock-Cockney accent is priceless. This is not called punishment for nothing.
Of course, everything falls apart. The center cannot hold. There barely is a center. David and Michael are both adrift. They turn their sessions with the other actors into therapy sessions. Pics or it didn't happen, right? Well, you can see for yourself. Emotions and boundaries collapse. This could only happen in Lockdown, the show seems to say. It's comedy, but the comedy is cutting deeper as it goes along. This is what it's like to be trapped inside a real Waiting for Godot. And we have 3 more episodes to go.
Staged Series 2 is now streaming on the BBC iPlayer. Hopefully, it will be on Hulu in the US soon.