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The cast of No Masks: Lorraine Ashbourne, Anna Calder-Marshall, Anya Chalotra, Russell Tovey and Eamonn Walker, featuring Elijah Melhado

Russell Tovey to star in new online play about coronavirus key workers

Published 21 August 2020

Russell Tovey (Years and Years) joins the cast of No Masks, a brand-new Sky original to mark the launch of Sky Arts as a free-to-air channel.

The drama, in partnership with Theatre Royal Stratford East and their artistic director Nadia Fall, Sky Arts and Moonshine Features will present a new work based on the real-life testimonies of key workers in East London during the pandemic.

Tovey takes on the role of policeman Noel alongside fellow talented cast members including Lorraine Ashbourne (The Crown) as palliative care nurse Linda, Anna Calder-Marshall (Harlots) as elderly lady Annie, Anya Chalotra (The Witcher) as junior doctor Anuja, and Eamonn Walker (Chicago Fire) as care worker Vincent, with Elijah Melhado from Stratford East’s Youth Theatre.

Weaved together with imagined narratives, written by Nadia Fall and Rebecca Lenkiewicz, No Masks will be a testament to the dedication of key workers during the COVID crisis as well as an exploration of our shared hopes and fears.

Russell Tovey says: “No Masks was an amazing reintroduction into the world of acting and filming again with a crew. It’s a dynamic and thoughtful piece, packed with all the stories and drama of our current climate, told through the words of people that are vital in making a difference on the front line.”

No Masks originally began in April 2020, where Stratford East called out to local key workers to submit their stories. These are featured on a virtual wall on their website – www.stratfordeast.com/nomasks and have been used to create the virtual play.

Nadia Fall, Artistic Director of Stratford East, said: “While our physical doors are shut our creative mission is to give a voice to those on the frontline and to bring people together. We are thrilled to be working with Sky Arts and Moonshine Features to showcase the brilliant stories of key workers from our community and be a part of Sky Arts as it becomes free for everyone to watch. We hope this project will be both life-affirming and a moving reality check of what everyday people are living through at this extraordinary time.”

As part of Sky Arts mission to increase access to and drive participation in the arts, this special work will bring performance into our homes at a time when it isn’t possible to experience live theatre in person. The 1×60 Sky original will air on Sky Arts this September when the channel becomes free for everyone across the UK to watch on Freeview and Freesat. It will also be available on streaming service NOW TV.

Philip Edgar-Jones adds: “Nadia and the team at Stratford East have been working tirelessly to keep theatre alive during this existential crisis point for live art and we are proud to be able to support this brand new production reflecting the lives of people working on the front line during the pandemic.”

No Masks is the latest in a raft of brand new original programming recently announced as coming to Sky Arts, including: Landmark, where artists and local communities across the UK will join forces in a quest to create the next great British landmark, English National Opera’s Drive & Live, a world-first exclusive broadcast of the ENO’s drive-in opera performance of La Bohème and Danny Dyer on Pinter, where Dyer explores the life and works of Harold Pinter and tells the story of their unlikely friendship.

No Masks is produced by Moonshine Features; executive producers are Michelle Crowther and Mike Reilly. Written by Nadia Fall and Rebecca Lenkiewicz for Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nadia Fall is also the director with Lisa Makin as casting director. Barbara Lee is commissioning editor at Sky. No Masks was commissioned by Phil Edgar-Jones Director of Sky Arts and Entertainment and Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content, Sky UK and Ireland.

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