Lagging preview: We spoke to the incredible team making the most of online theatre!
Lesbians, Tik Tok and sea shanties – the Lagging team have taken online theatre in their stride!
When their show was cancelled due to the pandemic-which-will-not-be-named, the cast and creative team behind 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche refused to give up, and seized the opportunity to make the most of the resources at their disposal and create a charming, witty and downright hilarious web series in Lagging.
We spoke to Molly Taylor (Director & Head Writer), Sophie Kean (Cast member), Claire Lee Shenfield (Assistant Director & Co-Writer) and James Macnab (Producer & Co-Writer) to get the inside scoop on this hilarious take on online theatre.
“Why not make a show about what might have been?”
In the words of the director: “Lagging is a web series made by the real cast and crew of the cancelled ADC Mainshow 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche. The episodes follow a fictional cast who discover that their same show has met that same fate, and they decide to turn it into an online production. Cue comedy, confusion and romance, with cameos from the actual production team!”
At the time of writing, the first two episodes of Lagging have already been released and, here at The Tab, we are obsessed. This ingenious response to “the dreaded cancellation news” is one of the silver linings of the pandemic, a beacon of hope that Cambridge Theatre can – and will – work online.
Molly told us that, when informed that the show her “talented cast and crew” had been so eager to produce had been cancelled, she consulted “graphs, pros-and-cons, mood boards – all that good stuff” to find an innovative solution, and it was definitely worth it. Taylor and co. have clearly found the right tone of meta-covid-theatre and made the new medium their own.
“Staged? What do you mean? I don’t know her”
I asked whether the writers had used the formula of the BBC zoom-based comedy Staged as a basis for their show. Taylor took the question with typical wit, informing us that the team are “still holding out for being sued by David Tenant or Micheal Sheen”. She explains that the show was “one of the best examples [she had] seen of a covid show that acknowledges and finds comedy in all the current limitations” so she decided to provide her own take on the formula, “like a thieving goblin”.
Goblins or not, this creative team have taken all of the genius of Staged, making Lagging a must-watch for fans of the Tennant/Sheen original, while adding their own refreshingly unique angle. Perhaps it is the incredible, almost exclusively female, cast of Lagging which gives the show its innovative and unique feel.
Although, while admitting that the 5 Lesbians casting left her with an abundance of multi-layered female characters, Molly maintained that it was not her intention to convey “a particularly feminist message, other than women existing”. Perhaps this tour-de-force of female performances simply stands out against a backdrop of a theatrical scene which is still far too male-dominated.
“We ADAPT, we OVERCOME”
In keeping with the themes and inspirations of the show itself, the Lagging team show a remarkable ability to transform the obstacles of online filming into punch-lines of observational comedy. Cast member Sophie Kean repeatedly finds herself the subject of “the worst kind of meta” jokes at the expense of her WiFi connection which, while hilariously relatable to the audience, proved a little more painful during the filming process.
Molly recalled “quite a bit of genuine confusion and bumbling” in the beginning as cast and crew adapted to an online format but, as is becoming a theme, also took advantage of the unique opportunities the format provided. Sophie explained that she “loved the episode format” that allowed the crew to produce “something completely new each week.”
Although Molly and Sophie both spoke of missing “the atmosphere” of live theatre and “being near other people”, it is a testament to everyone involved that they were able to have “a laugh and giggle about the ridiculousness of what we were trying to do”, inviting the audience in to share in what feels like a genuinely joyful (if difficult) process.
“Some really talented people have come together”
With so many brilliantly nuanced and genuine performances, it is difficult to draw out key highlights from the show. Although the cast may share the same names as their fictionalised versions of themselves, producer James Macnab assured me that they “tried not to make anyone’s character too much of a caricature of themselves” for fear of causing cast-members and writers to “question their personality traits.”
The ability of each of the cast members to still make their characters, based on “five radical responses to covid”, feel genuine is, therefore, an admirable feat and each of these performances is both noteworthy in its approach, and also incredibly effective in its execution.
One aspect of Lagging which threatens to steal the show, however, is Claire Lee Shenfield’s hilarious Tik Tok-inspired sea shanty which accompanies the end credits. Humbly described by Claire as “an elaborate bit that got taken too far”, the shanty will stay in the heads of viewers for a long time after watching and characterises the brilliant creativity, writing and performances offered by the entire Lagging team.
The first two remarkable episodes of Lagging can already be streamed online through the show’s Youtube channel. The three subsequent episodes will be released every Sunday and are not to be missed!
Cover image credit: Author’s own screenshot