Casting announced for Upstart Crow stage show

Tuesday 26th November 2019, 11:59am

Upstart Crow. Will Shakespeare (David Mitchell). Copyright: BBC.

Full casting for Ben Elton's stage adaption of Upstart Crow has been revealed.

As previously announced, joining David Mitchell as Will Shakespeare will be Gemma Whelan as Kate. However, it's now been revealed that a number of other actors from the TV show will take part in the play too. Helen Monks, who plays Susanna, Rob Rouse who stars as Bottom and Steve Speirs, who plays Burbage, will also take to the stage.

Mark Heap, who TV viewers will know as Robert Greene, will play a new character in the play, called Dr John Hall.

Also joining the cast is Danielle Phillips (Father Brown), Jason Callender (4 O'Clock Club) and Rachel Summers (This Islands Mine).

Ben Elton says: "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!"

The 11-week season, which opens at the Gielgud Theatre in London's West End on 7 February 2020, is directed by Olivier award-winning Sean Foley (The Ladykillers, Jeeves & Wooster and The Miser).

The plot is described as follows: "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."

Talking previously about taking the show to the stage, David Mitchell said: "I'm delighted to have the opportunity to bring history's most famous balding dramatist to the West End via the amazing comic imagination of Ben Elton. Theatre-goers can look forward to a comedy steeped in authentic Shakespearean ambience in every way apart from the smell."

The show will run Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets are on sale now from sites including Ticketmaster

The production is just the latest in a long tradition of sitcoms transferring to the stage, including Dad's Army and 'Allo 'Allo!, both of which became huge live hits with their original cast members.

Upstart Crow has run for three series on BBC Two, with the latest episode broadcast last Christmas. There is no news yet on whether a fourth television series may follow, but it has been a hit with the channel's audience to date.

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