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Sky’s summer of plays

June 9, 2010

I love unexpected treats. Having spent a blissful afternoon with a friend in Brockwell Park drinking Proscecco with raspberries on Saturday, I ended up being her boyfriend stand-in later on (only outside the bedroom I hasten to add).

She had a spare ticket for The Typist, a new play by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, the first woman to have a play performed on the main stage at the National Theatre, which you can see live on Sky Arts 2/HD tonight at 9pm (if you’ve got it).

It’s the first in summer series Playhouse: Live in which Sky Arts broadcasts a new play every Wednesday night for five weeks, live from Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. The idea harks back to BBC1’s groundbreaking The Wednesday Play which ran in the 1960s.

We saw what was in effect a full dress rehearsal for the TV performance. As my invite was so last-minute, I didn’t have any preconceptions. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it funny, thought-provoking and poignant. The Typist is a two-hander about the relationship between ageing photographer Mary Parks who is losing her sight and Fit, the young guy typing her memoirs.

Gemma Jones (Spooks, Sense & Sensibility) is outstanding as Parks, a woman grappling with old-age and loss of independence while Tobi Bakare plays Fit with energy and a knack for comic timing. The script is intelligent and witty and the living room set is very well-designed, complemented by photographic-like red lighting and bright flashes to mark scene changes.

Other plays in the series include Juliet Stevenson starring in Mark Ravenhill’s Ghost Story and Here by Eve Ensler (author of The Vagina Monologues).

I highly recommend you tune in as live theatre is so rare on TV these days, especially with actors and playwrights of this calibre. Or contact Riverside Studios to see a play in the flesh.

The Typist is broadcast live on Sky Arts 2/HD tonight at 9pm.

Later footnote: It’s dawned on me that these plays are Sky Arts’ answer to Big Brother which started at the same time tonight. Maybe they’re hoping that people will switch from real life drama to real live drama. The chances are slim methinks.

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