David Mitchell to play Shakespeare in new BBC2 sitcom

Upstart Crow, written by Ben Elton, starts next year

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David Mitchell and Harry Enfield will be trothing and gambolling around in a new BBC sitcom about the life of William Shakespeare. Mitchell will play the bard (“I’m delighted to be playing England’s greatest bard at this difficult time for bards everywhere,” he notes) in Upstart Crow, coming to the BBC next year.

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The six-part series, written by Blackadder’s Ben Elton, will also feature comic actors including Harry Enfield and Paula Wilcox as Bill’s parents, and Mark Heap as his rival Sir Robert Greene.

(The title comes from Crow’s description of Shakespeare as “upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers”)

Beginning in 1592, it will focus on Shakespeare at the beginning of his career, and show the unlikely inspiration for Romeo, meets Macbeth’s witches and learns why, when it comes to money, you should never be a borrower or a lender. (But especially not a borrower.)

Upstart Crow is part of a series of programming, starting 23rd April on BBC Two, marking 400 years since William Shakespeare’s death. The season also includes a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream starring Matt Lucas as Bottom.

Ben Elton went to great lengths to nail the tone of Upstart Crow. Or so he claims: “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.”

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Of course, it’s not the first time Elton has tangled with England’s poet prince…