Ben Elton’s Upstart Crow has added Emma Thompson to the cast for it’s Christmas Special. In the special, which is currently filming, Thompson will play Queen Elizabeth I. Noel Fielding (The Mighty Boosh) will also join the cast to play Thomas Morley in one of the second series episodes.
The comedy started as a highlight of the BBC’s Shakespeare festival last year and follows the quest of William Shakespeare to make it as a playwright in London, whilst juggling family life with his loved ones in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Upstart Crow is written by Ben Elton and sees David Mitchell (Peep Show) return as William Shakespeare for series two. The new series includes referenced to Shakespeare masterpieces such as Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and many more.
In the new series Will is still striving to make his mark in the theatre whilst battling the commute from London to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see his family, a journey made all the harder by typical Tudor problems like a strike by the coaching staff, coach cancellations and unusually wet leaves. But while the London elite sneer at country-boy Will at least he has the help of his servant Bottom (Rob Rouse), trusty friend Kate (Gemma Whelan) and not-so-trusty friend Marlowe (Tim Downie).
This series reveals some of the surprising stories behind Will’s plays, including a brush with an African general (Steve Toussaint) who takes a shine to Kate; a cut-price trip to Verona to look for inspiration; a collaboration on a new comedy with madrigal maestro Thomas Morley (Noel Fielding); a shrewish teenage daughter who may or may not need some ‘taming’; and a very frantic visit to Stratford that reveals the original inspiration for Falstaff. We also meet Simon Hunt (Geoffrey Whitehead), the schoolmaster who made Will’s life a misery in his boyhood and looks likely to do the same again; and at Christmas Will finds himself summoned before the Queen to present a special performance of the early draft of Twelfth Night, working title Eighth Night; and of course along the way there’s a great deal of wit, ale, pies and women dressing as men…
The rest of the cast includes Harry Enfield (Harry & Paul) as Will’s dad, John Shakespeare; Paula Wilcox (Mount Pleasant) as Will’s mum, Mary Arden; Liza Tarbuck (Linda Green) as Will’s wife Anne Hathaway; Helen Monks (Raised By Wolves) as their daughter Susanna; Gemma Whelan (Game Of Thrones) as Kate; Rob Rouse (Grownups) as Bottom; Mark Heap (Friday Night Dinner) as Will’s nemesis Robert Greene; Jocelyn Jee Esien (Little Miss Jocelyn) as Lucy; Dominic Coleman (Peaky Blinders) as Condell; Steve Speirs (Big School) as Burbage; Tim Downie (Toast) as Kit Marlowe and Spencer Jones (Big Babies) as Kempe.
David Mitchell comments: “Perhaps the hardest part of being in a new series of Upstart Crow is the challenge of improving on the quote I gave for the press announcement of the first series – a challenge which I have come to the conclusion I am unequal to.”
Shane Allen, Controller, Comedy Commissioning, says: “This is the dream combination of masterful comedy penmanship from Ben Elton, a cast littered with well-loved comedy actors both old and new, who lampoon the life and work of this cultural giant we were all taught to revere in school. It’s British comedy at its finest.”
Chris Sussman, Head of Comedy, BBC Studios adds: “It’s great to welcome back our merry band of players – and if David Mitchell manages to learn all the soliloquies Ben’s written for him then he should be instantly knighted.”