Full casting has been announced for Ben Elton’s stage adaption of the critically-acclaimed BBC TV sitcom Upstart Crow which runs at the Gielgud Theatre from 7 February to 25 April 2020 (press night 18 February) and will see David Mitchell make his West End debut as Will Shakespeare.
Joining Mitchell as Will Shakespeare and Gemma Whelan as Kate, in bringing their TV characters to life on stage, are Helen Monks (Raised by Wolves/Inside No. 9) as Susanna, Rob Rouse (Grownups) as Bottom and Steve Speirs (Stella/Rovers) as Burbage. Mark Heap (Friday Night Dinner/Spaced) who TV viewers will know as Robert Greene, will play a new character, Dr John Hall.
Also joining the cast is Danielle Phillips (Ready Player One/Father Brown), Jason Callender (Shadow and Bone/4 O’Clock Club) and Rachel Summers (This Island’s Mine). This 11-week season is directed by Olivier Award-winning Sean Foley (The Ladykillers, Jeeves and Wooster and The Miser).
Ben Elton said:
“Besides Will and Kate many of the other characters from the TV sitcom feature in this new play and I’m delighted that they will all be played by the original actors. Steve Speirs returns as Burbage the Actor, no doubt relishing the extra opportunity that live theatre offers for serious shouting and strutting. Hilarious Helen Monks is back as Shakespeare’s grumpy daughter Susanna.
“Top comic Rob Rouse will once again have us laughing at his Bottom and the show stopping Mark Heap who played Robert Greene is returnED in villainous guise! Gotta say, the brilliant new actors who are joining Upstart Crow for the first time will have to really pull up their puffling pants if they don’t want to get upstaged!”
It is 1605 and England’s greatest playwright is in trouble. King James has been on the throne for two years and Will Shakespeare has produced just two plays, both of which being generally considered to resemble the large semi-flightless birds recently discovered pecking corn and going ‘gobble gobble’ in the New World. Measure for Measure was incomprehensible bollingbrokes by any measure and All’s Well That End’s Well didn’t even end well. Will must lift his game or risk his head. Those who work at the pleasure of the King live in constant fear of his favour. No one has forgotten what happened to Henry VIII’s marriage guidance councillor.
Will desperately needs to come up with a brilliant new plot but he is finding it impossible to focus on finding one. He’s too distracted by family troubles. He’s considering dividing all his lands and property between his jealous, squabbling daughters and, to add to the confusion, two shipwrecked, Moorish, cross-dressing, identical twins have just arrived, separately and unaware of each other, at his door. How the futtock can a Bard be expected to find a plot for a play with all that is going on in the house?
To make matters worse Will’s friend and housekeeper Kate, horrified at the exploitation of showbiz animals for entertainment, has recently ‘liberated’ the Globe Theatre’s prize dancing bear. Kate intends to keep the poor distressed animal in the scullery until she can reintroduce her into the wild, but Mrs Whiskers (who was born to dance) has other plans. You can take the dancing bear out of the theatre, but you can’t take the theatre out of the dancing bear.