David Mitchell to star as Shakespeare in new BBC2 sitcom

Ben Elton & David Mitchell take on the bard.

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Peep Show‘s David Mitchell is to star as William Shakespeare in new BBC Two sitcom Upstart Crow.

It’s 1592 and Will Shakespeare is just at the beginning of his extraordinary career. The series will focus on both Will’s family and professional life and include the surprising stories of where many of his ideas came from. Also featured are his wife Anne and his extended family, his servant Bottom, his friends Kate and Marlowe, his theatrical troupe, and his rival Robert Greene.

In the series, Will finds inspiration for Romeo from an unlikely source; mislays a nearly treasonous masterpiece; gets tricked into a very embarrassing pair of tights; has a spot of bother with the wife over some sonnets; meets three witches who predict great things for him; and borrows some money on some rather unusual conditions.

Other cast confirmed are Harry Enfield (Harry & Paul) as Will’s dad, John Shakespeare; Paula Wilcox (Emmerdale) as Will’s mum; Liza Tarbuck (Linda Green) as Anne Hathaway; Helen Monks (Raised by Wolves) as Will’s daughter Susannah; Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones) as Kate; Mark Heap (Friday Night Dinner) as Sir Robert Greene, Will’s nemesis; Steve Speirs (Big School) as Burbage; Tim Downie (Paddington) as Marlowe; Dominic Coleman (Peaky Blinders) as Kempleton; Spencer Jones (Big Babies) as a member of Burbage’s company; and Rob Rouse (Grownups) as Bottom.

The six-part series from Ben Elton is part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Festival 2016 – which marks 400 years since William Shakespeare’s death and will launch on 23 April.

Ben Elton says: “I have tried very hard to think myself into Shakespeare’s creative world, writing only with a small chicken feather and not changing my underpants for a year.”

David Mitchell says: “I’m delighted to be playing England’s greatest bard at this difficult time for bards everywhere. You just try getting work as a bard these days. It’s virtually impossible.”

Kim Shillinglaw, Controller BBC Two and BBC Four, adds: “Attracting the very best creatives to BBC Two to do their most signature work is exactly what I want the channel to do and so I’m thrilled that talent of the calibre of Ben Elton, David Mitchell and Harry Enfield are bringing us this wonderfully witty new show. Comedy has always been part of BBC Two’s DNA and this extraordinarily inventive new series will be a central part of BBC Two’s Shakespeare celebrations next year, alongside The Hollow Crown and our live show in partnership with the RSC.”

Upstart Crow will air on BBC Two in 2016.