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Meet the cast of Upstart Crow: A Christmas Crow

Ben Elton’s Shakespeare comedy features a very special guest for the Christmas edition – Emma Thompson as Elizabeth I

Published: Monday, 25th December 2017 at 8:00 am

Ben Elton’s sitcom Upstart Crow starring David Mitchell as the world’s greatest writer Will Shakespeare is getting a plum Christmas spot as A Christmas Crow airs on BBC2.


It is also getting a very special guest star – Emma Thompson as a very stern Elizabeth I alongside the show's usual array of Tudor scamps and ne’er-do-wells.

Meet the cast of the popular Tudor titterfest….

Emma Thompson (Queen Elizabeth)

Emma Thompson as Elizabeth 1 in Upstart Crow, BBC publicity shot, BD

In the Christmas special, Will has to present his Queen with a play - and a gift. The gift's important. If he doesn't get her a gift he may get killed. And his arch enemy Robert Greene is determined that this happens.

Who is Emma Thompson?

Well she’s just happens to be a double Oscar winner and the only individual to have won an Academy Award for both acting (Best Actress for Howards End in 1993) and screenwriting (Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility three years later). A star of many TV shows and movies including Christmas favourite Love, Actually, she probably needs no introduction.

David Mitchell (Will Shakespeare)

Upstart Crow, BBC publicity shot, BD

Mitchell’s Will is a slightly befuddled character – coping with the demands of a writing career in London with the demands of a demanding family back in Stratford-on-Avon (so many demands!). But he shows flashes of genius, not least when he quotes some rather familiar lines of blank verse that he affirms will be pass one day into common usage. No one seems to believe him, alas…

Who is David Mitchell?

Panel show regular, writer and actor, David Mitchell's many talents make him something of a Renaissance Man himself. But he is perhaps best known to comedy fans for his long-running turn as Mark Corrigan in the adored Channel 4 comedy Peep Show and for recent work such as Back, written by Peep Show scribe Simon Blackwell as it happens.

Liza Tarbuck (Anne Shakespeare)

Upstart Crow cropped Liza Tarbuck

Anne is Will's kindly and wise wife who holds the fort in Stratford when he is playmaking in London – and is actually the source of some of her husband’s best ideas. The two always come together for a fireside chat at the end of every episode - and the Christmas special is no exception.

Who is Liza Tarbuck ?

A busy actress for many years, she first came to prominence in Paul Abbott’s BBC1 series playing the eponymous Linda Green. She also co-starred in Steve Coogan's roadie comedy Saxondale and had a prominent role in in the BBC's noughties period drama Bleak House as Mrs Jellyby

Helen Monks (Susanna)

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 09:00:01 on 05/12/2017 - Programme Name: Upstart Crow - TX: n/a - Episode: A Christmas Crow (No. 7) - Picture Shows: Will (DAVID MITCHELL), Green (MARK HEAP), Queen Elizabeth (EMMA THOMPSON) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Colin Hutton

Will and Anne’s daughter is very much a C21st Century teen who gives him more than enough headaches – and has a very low opinions of his writing which she regards as hugely embarrassing and unfunny.

Who is Helen Monks?

You probably remember her best for her starring role in two series of Raised by Wolves as Germaine, the character based on the show's co-writer Caitlin Moran.

Mark Heap (Robert Greene)

Programme Name: Upstart Crow - TX: n/a - Episode: A Christmas Crow (No. 7) - Picture Shows: Green (MARK HEAP) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Colin Hutton

Based on a real writer of the time who coined the phrase “Upstart Crow”, both the real and the comedy Greenes are snobby university-educated writers. in the show he has an unquenchable thirst to get one over on the "Crow" and in the Christmas special Greene inveigles himself into the Shakespeare family Christmas with two things on is mind: spite and revenge.

Who is Mark Heap?

A regular on TV and film since the 1980s, Heap is probably most familiar to TV audiences for his role as the uptight, widely-hated (though extremely) funny consultant radiologist Alan Statham in the TV comedy Green Wing; you may also remember him as the postman, a regular character in BBC1 period drama Lark Rise to Candleford.

Kate (Gemma Whelan)

Programme Name: Upstart Crow - TX: n/a - Episode: A Christmas Crow (No. 7) - Picture Shows: Kate (GEMMA WHELAN) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Colin Hutton

Will's forward-thinking and clever servant Kate is a proto feminist in an age…which very much needed proto feminists. It will be many decades before women as bright and talented as her are given equal rights to men. But she just gets on with it.

Who is Gemma Whelan?

Stand up and actress, Game of Thrones fans will recognize her as Yara Greyjoy – the seafaring warrior now languishing in jail somewhere in the bowels of King’s Landing.

Tim Downie (Kit Marlowe)

Programme Name: Upstart Crow - TX: n/a - Episode: A Christmas Crow (No. 7) - Picture Shows: Marlowe (TIM DOWNIE) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Colin Hutton

Tim Downie plays the smooth-talking, affable, if slightly unscrupulous friend of Will's. A fellow writer, Kit Marlowe is based on the real-life Christopher Marlowe author of Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta.

Who is Tim Downie?

Comedy fans will recognise him as the ghastly radio producer Danny Bear in Toast of London. Also starred alongside David Jason in the BBC comedy series The Royal Bodyguard.

Who else is in the cast…

As well as the people mentioned, Rob Rouse plays Will’s put upon servant Bottom, Harry Enfield plays Wills flatulent father John, with Paula Wilcox as Will's more refined mother Mary. And there are occasional meetings with Will’s troupe of players to keep everyone entertained. Also based on the Bard’s real-life acting company, they comprise Burbage (Steve Speirs), Condell (Dominic Coleman) and Spencer Jones’ fabulously funny Will Kemp, the star clown of the gang who in the comedy is modelled on Ricky Gervais.


Upstart Crow: A Christmas Crow is on BBC2 on Christmas Day at 8.25pm


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