1. Paapa Essiedu

Paapa Essiedu
Paapa Essiedu

He's currently treading the Royal Court boards in You For Me For You, but it's his upcoming performance in the RSC's Hamlet that seems destined to put Essiedu on the map. It's hard to remember a production of Hamlet that's offered a relatively unknown, young actor the chance to sink their teeth into the Prince of Denmark since Ben Whishaw at the Old Vic in 2004.

2. Evelyn Hoskins

Evelyn Hoskins at the press night of American Idiot
Evelyn Hoskins at the press night of American Idiot
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Considering she made her professional stage debut in Spring Awakening at the Lyric Hammersmith six years ago, it seems a bit bizarre to include Hoskins in this sort of list, but following her heralded performances this year (Carrie, The Sound of Music Live) and a UK tour of Ayckbourn's Hero's Welcome early next year, we can see Evelyn's career hitting new heights in 2016.

3. Emmanuel Kojo

Emmanuel Kojo in Show Boat at the Sheffield Crucible
Emmanuel Kojo in Show Boat at the Sheffield Crucible
© Johan Persson

Kojo graduated from Arts Ed in 2014 and pretty much went straight into the West End production of The Scottsboro Boys. He's currently smashing the proverbial ball clean out of the Crucible as Joe in the Sheffield venue's Christmas musical, Show Boat. We're expecting a transfer of Daniel Evans' production, but if that doesn't happen it won't be long before you see Kojo back in the limelight, trust us.

4. Duncan McLean

With recent credits including Privacy and City of Angels at the Donmar Warehouse, Secret Cinema's take on Star Wars, and Hangmen at the Royal Court, this Video/Projection Designer should be on everyone's 'to-keep-an-eye-on' list. Upcoming 2016 projects include James Graham's new play Monster Raving Loony and WNO's Macbeth.

5. Dan Hutton


© Giulia Delprato

Theatre company Barrel Organ had everyone excited in Edinburgh in 2014 with their first show Nothing which came fresh from the National Student Drama Festival. Company member Hutton co-created and performed in the piece, and Some People Talk About Violence - for which he was dramaturg - was generally heralded as a promising follow-up. His work with Barrel Organ, plus his gigs assistant directing on the likes of audacious sci-fi play Pioneer and the Royal & Derngate's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - means that we will be looking forward to seeing what he comes up with when he directs Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy at the Old Red Lion in London in March.

6. Emma Rice

Emma Rice
Emma Rice

Emma Rice has been making fabulous theatre for the last ten years or so down in Cornwall with her raucous company Kneehigh. But in 2016 she steps up to one of the most prestigious theatre gigs in the UK - running Shakespeare's Globe. She's only directed one Shakespeare play before - Cymbeline - but WhatsOnStage met her recently and she's clearly massively excited about the prospect of her new role. Her new season will be announced in early Jan, so watch out for the details of that. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death, so all eyes will be on her to see what she comes up with.

7. Aoife Duffin

Aoife Duffin in A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
Aoife Duffin in A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Her performance in Annie Ryan's adaptation of Eimear McBride's best-selling novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing was described as a 'mesmerizing tour de force' when the one-woman play ran in Edinburgh this year, next year it makes its way to the Young Vic. Expect to hear Duffin's name on awards shortlists by the end of 2016.

8. Sophia Decaro

Sophia Decaro as Tallulah in Bugsy Malone

Decaro made big impression when she starred as Tallulah in the Lyric Hammersmith's smash hit revival of Bugsy Malone. Her previous credits are musicals, but now Decaro turns to straight plays, with a starring role in the Lyric Hammersmith's production of Simon Stephens' Herons, a play about adolescent bullying.

9. Jack O'Connell

Jack O'Connell will star in The Nap at the Sheffield Crucible
Jack O'Connell will star in The Nap at the Sheffield Crucible

Having first found fame in E4's Skins, O'Connell has continued to impress with acclaimed performances in films Starred Up and Angelina Jolie's Unbroken for which he won the BAFTA Rising Star Award. He returns to the stage in Richard Bean's new snooker-based comedy at the home of snooker - the Crucible, Sheffield.

10. Dean John-Wilson

Dean John-Wilson will play Aladdin in the West End transfer
Dean John-Wilson will play Aladdin in the West End transfer
© Helen Maybanks

A semi-finalist on Britain's Got Talent in 2008, John-Wilson has gone on to appear in several big productions including Tim Rice's From Here to Eternity and Here Lies Love at the National Theatre, but nothing has quite lifted him to the lofty heights he'll experience on the flying carpet when the Broadway megahit Aladdin rolls into town next year.

11. Noma Dumezweni

Noma Dumezweni has a busy year ahead
Noma Dumezweni has a busy year ahead
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Unless you've been living under a Hagrid shaped rock for the last week, you'll have heard that Dumezweni has been cast as Hermione in the upcoming production-of-the-decade Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. What you might not know is that she'll also be making her directorial debut in February with Mongiwekhaya's I See You at the Royal Court. A busy year for Dumezweni, then.