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Sheridan Smith, Shirley Valentine, 2023
Photo by Shirley Valentine

The best new London theatre for 2023 – shows not to miss

Our pick of the best new plays, shows and musicals to book for in London’s theatres in 2023

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski
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After the chaos of the pandemic years, London’s theatre scene is fully reopened: a little battered around the edges still, but essentially how it was before Covid shut the theatres for 18 months: the best theatre city in the world, heaving with classic musicals, bold new writing, exciting international work and the all-important fringes.

This rolling list is constantly updated to share the best of what’s coming up and currently booking: these choices aren’t the be-all and end-all of great theatre in 2023, but they are, as a rule, the biggest and splashiest shows on the horizon, and the smaller, cooler ones we’re looking forward to the most as well.  They’re shows worth booking for, pronto.

Want to see if these shows live up to the hype? Check out our theatre reviews.

Unmissable theatre shows coming to London in 2023

  • Theatre
  • Shakespeare
  • South Bank

Shakespeare’s horror nasty ‘Titus Andronicus’ gets a revival from the immaculately hip – and unfailingly inventive – Jude Christian. Expect a wild ride in Christian’s take on Shakespeare’s almost indescribable Roman play, heaving with rape, mutilation, kin-slaying and, of course, inadvertent cannibalism. 

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  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • South Bank

Hotshot director Simon Stone’s version of the Phaedra myth finally arrives at the National, with ‘Ozark’ star Janet McTeer in the lead.

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  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • South Bank

Richard Hawley and Chris Bush’s musical paying tribute to three generations of life on Sheffield’s Park Hill Estate was due to transfer to the NT in 2020 following the wild acclaim its original Sheffield run received in 2019. The pandemic inevitably messed that up good and proper, but three years on and the transfer is finally going to happen.

  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Soho

The programming at the West End’s newest and worst-named theatre really kicks up a notch with Dominic Cooke’s revival of Euripides's ‘Medea’, staged from the 1946 adaptation by US poet Robinson Jeffers. Heavyweights Sophie Okonedo and Ben Daniels will star as Medea and Jason/Creon/Aegeus in the ancient Greek tragedy about the jilted, desperate Medea who kills her and Jason’s children as an act of shocking revenge. 

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  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Covent Garden

Sheridan Smith is back on stage with a role she could have been born to do: the eponymous heroine of Willy Russell’s celebratory monologue ‘Shirley Valentine’ about a housewife who dreams of escaping her humdrum life and marriage… and does so. The hyper-busy Matthew Dunster is on directing duties.

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  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Leicester Square

Super-director Ivo van Hove’s adaptation of Hanya Yanagihara’s mega-selling novel ‘A Little Life’ makes its English language debut for a West End run starring James Norton as the story’s deeply troubled central character, Jude, along with Luke Thompson (Willem), Omari Douglas (JB), Zach Wyatt (Malcolm).

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  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Covent Garden

A proper fringe theatre success story, ‘Operation Mincemeat’ has played numerous London theatres over the last several years and in March 2023 will finally make it to the West End, dethroning ‘The Woman in Black’ at the Fortune Theatre after a 33-year-run.

  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • South Bank

Sam Mendes directs Jack Thorne’s dramatisation of the complicated relationship between Richard Burton and John Gielgud. Johnny Flynn stars as Burton, with Mark Gatiss as Gielgud and Tuppence Middleton as Elizabeth Taylor. 

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  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Shepherd’s Bush

The great Lenny Henry stars in his own one-man show – his debut as a playwright! – about charming a West Bromwich fruit seller August Henderson, who faces deportation to Jamaica after getting ensnared in the burning injustice of the Windrush scandal. 

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  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Covent Garden

‘Crazy for You’ is a golden age musical comedy that’s actually from 1992: writer Ken Ludwig took a load of classic songs by George and Ira Gershwin – largely from the 1930 musical ‘Girl Crazy’ – and spun them into a shimmeringly delightful retro confection that’s almost indistinguishable from the era it’s paying homage to, the odd knowing flourish aside. 

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