The BBC has revealed that the episode will take inspiration from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, instead of being based on a Shakespeare play like most episodes.
Following the death of his son Hamnet, the Shakespeare house is in “a bleak midwinter” – but a chance encounter with a stranger ends up filling Will with love and light and hope again, and inspires him to lighten the despair of others.
Selecting the miserly Greene (Mark Heap) as his target, Will and his friends arrange for three midnight “ghosts” to visit him, Scrooge-style, and persuade him to change his ways.
“Who is the stranger?” the official BBC summary continues.
“Can Will and his family and friend’s efforts persuade Greene to change his ways and show some generosity to his servant Job Scratchit? (Karl Theobald)
“And at the end of it all could this tale of Yuletide redemption be another smash Shakespeare hit on the stage, or is its time not yet come? In short, what the Dickens is going on?”
And this isn’t the first time Upstart Crow creator Ben Elton has created a Scrooge-themed festive special, having written the similarly-focused 1988’s Blackadder’s Christmas Carol with Richard Curtis during their work on the earlier series.
Who stars in it?
Star of stage and screen Sir Kenneth Branagh is playing a “mysterious stranger” in the special, following in the footsteps of his ex-wife Emma Thompson after she played Elizabeth I in last year’s festive episode.
And model-turned actor Lily Cole is also joining the gang in an unknown role, alongside Karl Theobald (Twenty Twelve Green Wing) as Greene’s servant Job Scratchit.
Apart from that the familiar faces of David Mitchell’s Will, Liza Tarbuck’s Anne, Gemma Whelan’s Kate, Rob Rouse’s Bottom, Harry Enfield’s John Shakespeare, Helen Monks’ Mary Arden, Helen Monks’ Susanna and Mark Heap’s Robert Greene are expected to return alongside the actors of Will’s troupe and fellow wordsmith Kit Marlowe (Tim Downie).
What comes next?
The BBC has yet to confirm whether Upstart Crow will be back for a fourth series in 2019, so fingers crossed this Christmas tomfoolery isn’t the last we see of Will Shakespeare and his entourage.
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