NEWS: Headlong and Century Films Announce Unprecedented Project

The Olivier Award winning theatre company and BAFTA award winning Century Films have announced a new series to explore how theatre can be made during, and about, the Covid-19 pandemic.

Broadcast on BBC 4 from the 26th to the 28th May, Unprecedented has been written by a diverse range of celebrated playwrights and performed by over 50 of the UK’s finest actors, the project aims to  give insight into this novel, communal experience and the changes our society has undergone.

One week before the lockdown was announced, some of the UK’s most celebrated playwrights were commissioned to write 14 stories. They focus on community and connection, as well as the lives of couples, NHS workers, families and teenagers. There are stories of love, triumph, uncertainty and humour. The series will feature world premiere pieces from writers including: April De Angelis, Josh Azouz, Deborah Bruce, John Donnelly, James Graham, Matilda Ibini, Charlene James and Jasmine Lee-Jones.

Each piece will be performed by a range of casts which will include: Gemma Arterton, Arthur Darvill, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Lennie James, Patterson Joseph, Rory Kinnear, Alex Lawther, Katherine Parkinson, Alison Steadman and Meera Syal.

Eleven of the digital plays will be broadcast on BBC Four across three nights with all fourteen available to stream on BBC iPlayer as part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.

Produced by Headlong and Century Films, Unprecedented was conceived, written, filmed and produced in lockdown. Rehearsals took place over Zoom; props, costumes, lighting and set were sourced or made by the cast themselves, and the series was shot in homes across the country using digital conferencing technology.

The series is set to include:

Viral by James Graham

Directed by Ola Ince

Starring: Saoirse-Monica JacksonLaurie Kynaston,  Archie Madekwe, and Stuart Thompson

“I’d never even heard of ‘Zoom’ until two days ago”

After schools shut, and A Levels are postponed, three teenagers use lockdown to come up with the next big viral craze.

Penny by Charlene James

Directed by Holly Race Roughan

Starring: Lennie James

“If one more person talks to me about social distancing – don’t you know that’s my life?”

Ray has been moved into a hotel for the foreseeable future, yet he knows that survival is a lot more complicated than having a roof over your head.

Going Forward by John Donnelly

Directed by Blanche McIntyre

Starring; Paul Chahidi, Frances Grey, Lisa Kerr, Enyi Okoronkwo, Boadicea Ricketts, Sid Sagar, Gyuri Sarossy, Kiruna Stamell, Amy Trigg, Dickon Tyrrell, Gabby Wong and Sargon Yelda.

“Sorry, Alastair, if we all just start shouting things out, it’ll be absolute chaos”

When team meetings move online, an under-pressure team leader takes drastic measures to make sure targets are met.

Romantic Distancing by Tim Price

Directed by Jeremy Herrin

Starring: Inès De Clercq and Arthur Darvill.

“It’s just a shit time to be starting something new with someone. What do you think?”

Love in the time of coronavirus: can technology bridge the emotional gap as well as the geographical?

Safer at Home by Anna Maloney

Directed by Brian Hill

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Geraldine James and Rory Keenan.

“He’s making a fuss of you, I hope?”

As families and couples are forced into isolation, we see Mike taking pride in looking after his pregnant partner, Ellie. Mike’s mother, Betsy, is delighted, she’s extremely fond of Ellie; but she starts to see things about their relationship that unsettle her.

House Party by April De Angelis

Directed by Holly Race Roughan

Starring; Patricia Allison, Risteárd Cooper, Gabriel Harland, Cecilia Noble, James Norton, Rhashan Stone, Meera Syal, Olivia Williams and Fenella Woolgar.

“Bloody virus. Now we have to interact with the neighbours”

A street in South London get together on ‘Houseparty’ for a virtual drinking session in the first week of isolation, but not everyone is in the mood for a party…

Grounded by Duncan Macmillan

Directed by Jeremy Herrin

Starring: Michael Elwyn, Arlo Dollimore, Katherine Parkinson and Alison Steadman.

“We’re not teenagers. We’re not grounded.”

Liz is stressed by her parents’ cavalier attitude to the virus. Their age and health conditions put them heavily at risk. However, when overcome by the stress of her work, Liz is the one who needs looking after.

Fear Fatigue by Prasanna Puwanarajah

Directed by Brian Hill

Starring: Esh Alladi, Natalie Dew, Paterson Joseph, Rory Kinnear, Jodie McNee and Anna Madeley.

“A lot has happened in the past week that… I never thought I’d see.”

Based on conversations with NHS workers in March 2020, Fear Fatigue documents the feelings and fears of frontline staff in the days and weeks before the Coronavirus lockdown.

Kat and Zaccy by Deborah Bruce

Directed by Deborah Bruce

Starring: Monica Dolan and Alex Lawther.

“Everyone’s child has come home except mine!”

Zac is reluctant to come home from university during lockdown; how long can he ignore his mother’s emotional pleas for his return?

The Unexpected Expert by Matilda Ibini

Directed by Debbie Hannan

Starring: Saida AhmedLucianne McEvoy and Golda Rosheuvel.

“I am still the exception – still the exception to humanity”

This crisis will have a huge impact on Roxy’s social care package. The Local Authority thanks her for her understanding, yet she feels significantly misunderstood.

The Night After by Josh Azouz

Directed by Ned Bennett

Starring: Kathryn Hunter and Marcello Magni

“The sex has improved.”

A couple in their sixties try to make contact with the outside world. Is it a distress signal? Or a message to a specific loved one? Greek Gods, a noose, and the past all threaten to overwhelm them. A touching tale of toast, taboos and toddlers. 

Central Hill by Nathaniel Martello-White

Directed by Nathaniel Martello-White

Starring: Julian BarrattErin Doherty and Abraham Popoola.

“Remember, this is a comedy”

Coronavirus flings a couple into a long-distance relationship. A freelance actor cannot afford to eat. Ginger and toilet paper have become the most sought-after items on the planet. A likely farce, or a horror movie waiting to happen?

Everybody’s Talkin’ by Chloe Moss

Directed by Caitlin McLeod

Starring: Denise Gough Sue JohnstonRochenda Sandall and Rebekah Staton.

“I thought you said this would be just like being together”

Liz, Rebecca and Katherine are full of ideas for their mother: Facebook Pilates, Zoom Art Classes, FaceTime therapy… anything to help her feel connected.

Batshit by Jasmine Lee-Jones

Directed by Tinuke Craig

Starring: Kae Alexander

“and when you are gone there will be nothing

no morgue memorial memory song…

not even the vague embittered memory of what’s been”

It’s 2021. The global pandemic continues to sweep the earth. In the midst of massive loss, grief and mourning, many have searched for a party to blame – with some civilians taking justice into their own hands. As ceaseless chaos sweeps the earth, shit is well and truly about to hit the fan…”

Unprecedented will be showcased on BBC 4 from the 26th to the 28th May at 10pm.

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