Upstart Crow: Ben Elton’s play starring David Mitchell announces fresh London West End run

David Mitchell’s Shakespearean comedy Upstart Crow will be heading back to the West End this autumn.

Starring Mitchell as the hapless Will Shakespeare and Game of Thrones actress Gemma Whelan as Kate, the proto-feminist daughter of his London landlord, the show will be opening on September 23 for ten weeks – after a 2020 run which was curtailed after a month by the pandemic but netted the show an Olivier Award nomination.

"A whole pandemic later, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to continue my West End debut as history’s most famous balding dramatist and escape back to 1605 through the amazing comic imagination of Ben Elton,” Mitchell said.

“We aim to bring Shakespearean London back to life in every way apart from the smell.”

Creator Ben Elton added: “The Bard is back! The theatres were closed due to plague in Shakespeare’s day just as they have been in our own, so I couldn’t be prouder and happier that Upstart Crow is once more bringing the laughter to the West End.”

Upstart Crow had a triumphant first West End run in 2020 (Johan Persson)
Upstart Crow had a triumphant first West End run in 2020 (Johan Persson)

The play, which will be directed by Sean Foley (The Play What I Wrote), is based on the hit TV series of the same name, which launched in 2016 and documents the life of Will Shakespeare, his family and friends – and is loved by fans for its playfulness and colourful use of language.

According to the show’s description, Will is in for yet more trouble in his latest appearance.

“Will Shakespeare has produced just two plays; Measure for Measure, which according to King James was incomprehensible bollingbrokes by any measure, and All’s Well That End’s Well which didn’t even end well,” it reads.

“Will desperately needs to maketh a brilliant new play to bolster his reputation and avoid being cast aside by King and country. But Will’s personal life is encountering more dramatic twists and turns than any theatrical story he can conjure.

“How the futtock can a Bard be expected to find a plot for a play whilst his daughters run amok and his house is used as refuge for any old waif and stray.

“As time runs out, can Will hold on to his dream of being recognised now and for all time, as indisputably the greatest writer that ever lived, or will family woes thwart Will’s chances of producing his masterwork?”

Upstart Crow will run at the Apollo Theatre from September 23 to December 3