Upstart Crow is a belter of a classic BBC sitcom, written by Ben Elton and telling the story of Shakespeare divided by his time in London with his theatre, and at home in Stratford with his family. I managed to see the TV show being recorded and earlier in the year, also got to see the stage show, with a brand new story by Elton, featuring the main cast. Sadly it was shortly was closed down by the pandemic. The theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue still mocks passers by with its promises.
But know its two main stars, David Mitchell as Shakespeare and Gemma Whelan as his landlord's niece Kate, will be returning to the roles on the small screen in a new Upstart Crow Christmas Special, by Ben Elton. It will star just them, a two-hander performance in these coronavirus times, reflected in the plot which picks up on the Black Death that, at the time, also saw the theatres closed for just the same reasons. And it will be performed in front of a live but virtual audience on Thursday 10th of December, to be scheduled probably on Christmas Day.
The plague has hit London and as Christmas approaches Will and Kate are in wave fifteen of state-enforced home confinement together in Will's London lodgings. As Kate fills endless time with baking, painting, hoarding, clapping and DIY haircuts Will is doing his absolute best to use the plaguey lock-in to pen a classic for the new King so his head doesn't end up in a basket. The problem is he's got zero inspiration… Can Will come up with the perfect play? And far from their friends and loved ones will he and Kate find a way to create their own kind of Christmas cheer?
I've applied for tickets but I expect so will tens of thousands of others… Upstart Crow is much loved and it was thought would not be returning to the television. But it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. And no Will, before you start, that was not one of yours.