Meet the cast of BBC sitcom Upstart Crow

The comedy is back on screens for a lockdown Christmas special

Francesca Shillcock

Like a lot of TV this year, the Upstart Crow Christmas special will look a little different to usual episodes, with just David Mitchell and Gemma Whelan holding the fort. 

The BBC comedy is working 2020 into its narrative and offering up a lockdown theme, but we're sure it won't be short of clever wit and heartwarming moments.

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The sitcom, starring David Mitchell as the Bard, is written by comedy heavyweight Ben Elton, who is responsible for other hit comedies like The Young Ones and Blackadder.

The comedy was even due to hit the West End stage this year, before being halted due to restrictions surrounding the pandemic. Get to know the full cast of the show here, which is available in full to stream on BBC iPlayer.

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David Mitchell as William Shakespeare

Writer, comedian and actor David Mitchell stars as the lead in Upstart Crow, and it seems the actor has a large affection for the playwright. Speaking to the Sunday Times this weekend ahead of the festive episode, the actor said: "Doing this show I feel like I love him.


David Mitchell plays the Bard in the comedy

"I am almost ashamed to admit this because my belief is that all actors have any business doing is learning the lines and saying them in the right order in a way that hopefully makes the story seem real and keeps people entertained. But nevertheless, playing him so many times… I have a completely unearned sense of ownership." David has also starred in shows such as That Mitchell and Webb Look, Peep Show and Back.

Liza Tarbuck as Anne Hathaway

Liza Tarbuck plays the role of Shakespeare's older and 'commoner' wife, Anne Hathaway. The actress is the daughter of beloved entertainer and Saturday Night at the Palladium host Jimmy Tarbuck, and it seems she's followed in her father's footsteps into showbiz.


Liza Tarbuck plays Shakespeare's wife

Liza has appeared in other TV programmes such as French & Saunders and BBC One's adaptation of Bleak House. Liza has also appeared on BBC Radio.

Paula Wilcox as Mary Arden

Mary Arden was William Shakespeare's mum and is played in the sitcom by Paula Wilcox. Viewers will recognise Paula from shows such as Coronation Street, The Smoking Room and Mount Pleasant.

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Paula Wilcox also stars in the sitcom

Helen Monks as Susanna

The character Susanna is the daughter of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway and is played in the comedy by Helen Monks. Helen's other acting credits include fictional series The Last Kingdom, Genius and other comedies such as Raised By Wolves and Inside No.9.


Helen Monks plays the daughter of Shakespeare

Harry Enfield as John Shakespeare

Harry Enfield is no stranger to comedy TV. The actor, who plays John Shakespeare, father of William, began his career in the early eighties and went on to create his own comedy sketch show Harry Enfield's Television Programme.


Harry Enfield also stars

The comedian is also well-known for his work alongside Kathy Burke, creating comedy act Kevin and Perry, and for appearing in Men Behaving Badly. More recently, he's appeared in Bad Education and The Windsors.

Gemma Whelan as Kate

Gemma Whelan has played Kate – an aspiring actress and friend of Shakespeare's – on Upstart Crow since the beginning, but the actress is also hailed for her performance on HBO drama Game of Thrones.

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Gemma as Kate in Upstart Crow

The actress played Yara Greyjoy in the popular series from season two onwards. She has also appeared in The End of the F***ing World, The Moorside and White House Farm.

Tim Downie as Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe, commonly known as Kit, was often considered a rival of Shakespeare's by historians. In the sitcom, he acts as a fellow playwright and spy. The show plays on the 'Marlovian theory of Shakespeare authorship' that alleges Marlowe was the penman behind a lot of Shakespeare's work. Playing Kit is Tim Downie, also known for his work in Outlander, Paddington and The King's Speech.


Tim Downie plays Kit Marlowe

Mark Heap as Robert Greene

Viewers will recognise Mark Heap who plays fellow author Robert Greene from his work in cult comedies like Green Wing and Friday Night Dinner. He's also made appearance in other programmes such as Spaced, Benidorm and Brass Eye.


Friday Night Dinner star Mark Heap also appears

Upstart Crow sees many other famous faces pop up throughout the programme including Shakespearean theatre veteran Kenneth Branagh. Lily Cole and Death in Paradise star Ben Miller have also made an appearance, as well as writer Ben Elton's former co-stars Emma Thompson and Adrian Edmondson. 

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