Meet the cast of the Upstart Crow Christmas special

The Bard is locked down with Kate in London in 1603. Will they survive with their dignity intact?


Ben Elton’s winning period comedy Upstart Crow returns with a Christmas plague special, mining the comparisons between our COVID-stricken year and the pestilent periods of the Elizabethan Age.


The up-and-coming bard Will Shakespeare (David Mitchell) features in the two-hander special, Lockdown Christmas 1603, when he has to endure lockdown number 15 with the Landlady’s Daughter, Kate (Gemma Whelan), in London.

As Kate fills the time with baking, hoarding, clapping and DIY haircuts, Will is doing his absolute best to use the time to pen a classic for the new king so his head doesn’t end up in a basket. The problem is that he has zero inspiration. How will he uncork the creative fizz? And how will he survive Kate’s endless distractions?

David Mitchell plays Will Shakespeare

Gary Moyes

Who does David Mitchell play in Upstart Crow? The Will Shakespeare we see before us in Ben Elton’s sassy sitcom bears no relation to any known details about the real Bard, but that doesn’t make him any less amusing. It’s a very modern take on the legendary playwright, with Will commuting to work in London from Stratford-upon-Avon and trying to deal with all the stresses of the “modern” world while making his mark as a dramatist.

Where have I seen David Mitchell before? Comic actor and TV personality Mitchell is one of UK television’s most familiar and popular faces, whose broadcast career stretches back to Channel 4’s cult hit series Peep Show in the early 2000s and his BBC Two sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look in 2006. Since then he’s become a fixture on mainstream television through his appearances as a team captain on Would I Lie To You as well as QI, Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You.

Gemma Whelan plays Kate

Gary Moyes

Who does Gemma Whelan play in Upstart Crow? Gemma plays the Landlady’s Daughter, Kate, in the Christmas 2020 special. Kate is a frustrated actress (women, of course, weren’t allowed on stage in the era) and portrays the frustrations of the age from a female perspective with charm and her fair share of comedy.

Where have I seen Gemma Whelan before? Leeds-born Gemma has become a very recognisable face on television courtesy of not only Upstart Crow but also recurring roles in HBO’s global hit series Game of Thrones (playing Yara Greyjoy), Horrible Histories and Eunice in Channel 4/Netflix hit series The End of the F***ing World.

The Upstart Crow Christmas special will screen on at 9pm on Monday, 21st December on BBC Two.


Check out what else is on with our TV Guide, or take a look at our new TV shows 2020 page to find out what’s airing this autumn and beyond.