David Mitchell is to make his West End debut next year in Ben Elton’s stage adaptation of the critically acclaimed BBC TV sitcom, Upstart Crow. This all-new comedy – written especially for the stage – will see Mitchell once more don the bald wig and bardish coddling pouch in his iconic characterisation of Will Shakespeare.
Opening at the Gielgud Theatre on 7 February (Press Night 18 February), Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones and Gentleman Jack) will co-star as the sweet and fragrant Kate. They will be joined on stage by a troupe of players for this 11 week season, directed by Olivier award-winner Sean Foley (The Ladykillers, Jeeves and Wooster and The Miser).
David Mitchell says: “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.”
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.
Tickets on sale later this week.