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Headlong’s 14 new plays to air on BBC next week

Kitty Underwood

By Kitty Underwood First Published 21 May 2020, Last Updated 21 May 2020

Olivier Award-winning Headlong theatre company and BAFTA-winning Century Films have teamed up to produce Unprecedented, a huge new project responding to the Coronavirus crisis.

Featuring 14 playwrights, 11 directors and over 50 actors, Unprecedented seeks to explore the radical way our world hs changed over the last couple of months.

Actors taking part include Gemma Arterton, Arthur Darvill, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Lennie James, Paterson Joseph, Rory Kinnear, Alex Lawther, Katherine Parkinson, Alison Steadman And Meera Syal.

The 14 stories that have come out of this project focus on communities, connection, families, teenagers, couples and NHS workers throughout this crisis. They look at how education, work, relationships, culture, and capitalism have been changed and are still changing every day and explore how we find the warmth, humour and humanity in our situations.

Unprecedented has been entirely written, filmed and produced in lockdown. Rehearsals have been video calls and the casts have made or sourced their own props, costume, lighting and sets.

From Tuesday 26 May to Thursday 28 May, 11 of these digital plays will be broadcast on BBC Four, and all 14 will be available on BBC iPlayer as part of their Culture In Quarantine programming.

You can find details of all 14 plays below.


Viral by James Graham

Directed by Ola Ince

Starring: Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Laurie 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 Ahmed, Lucianne 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 Barratt, Erin 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 Johnston, Rochenda 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…”


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We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

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While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.