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Gemma Arterton
Image: Andy Parsons

Gemma Arterton, Julian Barratt and Rory Kinnear among stars of new lockdown theatre ‘Unprecedented’

Chris Waywell

More details have been revealed about a unique series of 12 plays created in response to the UK’s lockdown, with Hollywood star Gemma Arterton signing up.

Last month, ‘Unprecedented: Theatre from a State of Isolation’ was announced. It’s a collaboration between pioneering theatre company Headlong (‘Enron’, ‘1984’), Century Films and BBC Arts, and will be streamed live as part of the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine strand.

‘Unprecedented’ sees a dozen specially commissioned new plays from some of the country’s most innovative playwrights, including James Graham (‘Ink’, ‘Quiz’), Duncan Macmillan (‘People, Places and Things’, ‘1984’) and Jasmine Lee-Jones (‘Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner’). 

The plays will be rehearsed and performed via online conferencing platforms, so even if you’re not that into theatre, you can still enjoy watching famous actors who’ve accidentally muted themselves.

While the plays are apparently still evolving – like everything else right now – the actors taking part have been revealed, and it’s a pretty starry cast. There’s everyone from theatre legend Alison Steadman to Julian Barratt from ‘The Mighty Boosh’. Perhaps the biggest coups are Arterton and Lennie James (‘The Walking Dead’). Other big names involved include Meera Syal, Rory Kinnear, Arthur Darvill of ‘Doctor Who’ fame and Sue Johnston. 

‘Unprecedented: Theatre from a State of Isolation’ promises to be a landmark experiment in what culture and theatre can mean in a physically and socially distanced world. And with so many plays in recent years looking at the influence of technology on society and imagining what things during and after an apocalyptic event might be like, it would be timely even without the current crisis.

At the same time, the popularity of online theatre during lockdown (such as National Theatre Live’s widely accessed At Home season) means that ‘Unprecedented’ could be tapping into a whole new audience. It certainly should be quite unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

‘Unprecedented: Theatre from a State of Isolation’ is due to start streaming in May on BBC Arts

Explore more theatre to stream at home here.

And find more top culture to enjoy from the comfort of your sofa.

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