‘Upstart Crow’ returns for Christmas lockdown special — 17th Century style

David Mitchell as Will Shakespeare in Upstart Crow. Photo: BBC Two

Ben Elton’s Shakespearean comedy, Upstart Crow, is headed to BBC2 for a new Christmas special starring David Mitchell as the bard and Gemma Whelan as Kate.

According to the channel, “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 can he and Kate find a way to create their own kind of Christmas merriment?

“Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow: A Lockdown Christmas 1603”, will echo real events of the 17th Century, when the plague – or black death – hit Europe in a series of waves spanning hundreds of years. Although the nature of the disease and its transmission were not known and misunderstood, isolation and social distancing were employed to combat the outbreaks. Sound a little bit familiar?

In a somewhat eerie clip from almost four years ago that seems all-too relevant to today, Mr. Shakespeare has a bit of trouble ‘working from home’….

For Elton (The Young Ones, Happy Families, Blackadder), this will be the first new episode of Upstart Crow on television since Series 3 concluded back in December 2018 with the second of the series’ two holiday programs. The sitcom was just a few weeks into a run of a new West End stage adaptation when the covid-19 outbreak forced the closure of theatres in March this year. I had the great good fortune to attend opening night in London back in early February and, fortunately, two hours of Upstart Crow greatness was just enough to hold me for almost a year without travel in 2020.

The Upstart Crow at the Gielgud Theatre on Opening Night. Photo: Bill Young

Upstart Crow “Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow: A Lockdown Christmas 1603” will be broadcast at a yet-to-be-confirmed date over the Christmas period on BBC Two. With any luck it will make its way to public television stations in the States in the not-too-distant future.

In: Comedy