Top new plays to see in 2023
We pick 15 new plays to put on your must-see list
New writing alert! As we prepare to head into 2023, here's a variety of shows to get on your must-see lists next year.
Just for Us
The Menier has two very appealing US imports coming to the UK next year. The second is 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist Marjorie Prime from Jordan Harrison, while the first, Alex Edelman's Just for Us, is set to examine aspects of white nationalism on the other side of the Atlantic – as well as themes of antisemitism and online behaviour. All very pressing topics, of course! Menier Chocolate Factory, from 11 January to 26 February.
Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead
A new Complicité show is normally a major theatre event, given the company's stellar success with shows like Can I Live, The Encounter and The Master and the Margarita. They've also just revealed a cracking new episodic BBC radio play, titled The Dark is Rising. But into 2023 they're adapting Olga Tokarczuk's corker of a novel Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, a lyrical and visceral exploration of animal rights, environmentally-friendly living and modern European society. One of our favourite books in recent memory. Tour opens at Bristol Old Vic on 19 January.
Sound of the Underground
While the Royal Court is kicking off with a solid season of programming, including Ava Wong Davies' romantic play Graceland , we've selected Travis Alabanza's new main house show Sound of the Underground for this list – a bumper experience billed as "part-play, part-raucous cabaret, part-workers' manifesto". With added Girls Aloud. Royal Court, from 19 January to 25 February
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
One of the most exciting director around, Miranda Cromwell, is tackling this new play based on the 2019 novel by Christy Lefteri. Exploring the fall-out from the Syrian Civil War, it is adapted for the stage by Nesrin Alrefaai and Matthew Spangler (who worked on the now Broadway hit The Kite Runner) opening at Nottingham Playhouse before embarking on a tour. Nottingham Playhouse from 3 to 25 February before touring.
Trouble in Butetown
We love a good prize-winning play here at WhatsOnStage, and the George Devine Award-sporting Trouble in Butetown from Diana Nneka Atuona is particularly tantalising. Set in a Welsh port town during the war, it has a lovely cast led by Sarah Parrish and Samuel Adewunmi. Donmar Warehouse from 10 February to 25 March.
Women Beware of the Devil
A brilliant cast including Conversation with Friends' Alison Oliver, Richard II's Leo Bill and Oslo's Lydia Leonard head up this brand-new play from Lulu Raczka. A witch-laden 17th century drama, we're expecting spooky surprises. Almeida Theatre from 11 February to 25 March.
Anyone who has read Maggie O'Farrell's hit novel Hamnet will know it's a novel and refreshing take on a Stratford-upon-Avon icon, told from the vantage point of a figure history has given a maverick status – Shakespeare's wife. Award-winning writer Lolita Chakrabarti is now bringing the tale to the RSC in a brilliant stroke of programming, reopening the venue's Swan Theatre (which has been closed since before the pandemic. RSC's Swan Theatre from 1 April to 17 June 2023.
A Little Life
Speaking of novel adaptations, 2023 brings the English-language stage premiere of Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life – which bagged a full five-star review when it was first presented on these shores in Dutch. A harrowing, gruelling and gripping experience, director Ivo van Hove has amassed a pretty stellar cast. Richmond Theatre from 14 March, Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End from 25 March.
Lord of the Flies
If you like your classic texts being given fresh and exciting new make-overs, then we wholeheartedly recommend this new co-produced version of Lord of the Flies, courtesy of Leeds Playhouse and Belgrade Theatre Coventry in association with Rose Theatre. Amy Leach directs, with the show portraying a fractious splintering of society faced with unimaginable circumstances. In a similar, bug-based vein, hit company Frantic Assembly is giving their own take on Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis later in 2023 – which we're also very excited about. Lord of the Flies opens in Leeds Playhouse on 18 March before touring.
You Bury Me
The Women's Prize for Playwriting has proven an undeniable success – and 2023 sees the fully-produced premiere of Ahlam's coming of age tale, set in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Bristol Old Vic from 24 February, Royal Lyceum from 7 to 18 March and Orange Tree Theatre from 27 March to 22 April.
The Motive and the Cue
The big blockbuster show in what is settling in to being another resolutely solid season for the National, Jack Thorne's new play is about a Richard Burton-led Broadway production of Hamlet (directed by Orson Welles). A theatre nerd's fever dream, the cast is pretty dapper as well – featuring Johnny Flynn, Mark Gatiss and Tuppence Middleton, with the inimitable Sam Mendes directing. National Theatre, from 20 April.
August in England
The Bush Theatre looks set to present another brilliant year of shows in 2023, including Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini's Sleepova, which looks like an absolute hoot. We've chosen, however, Lenny Henry's new piece August in England, a response to the injustice of the Windrush scandal. Henry himself performs in the show, with the piece co-directed by artistic director Lynette Linton and associate artistic director Daniel Bailey. Bush Theatre, from 28 April to 10 June.
School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play
An unbridled success in the States, the Lyric Hammersmith has bagged the UK premiere of Jocelyn Bioh's hit play, with playing dates from next summer. Set in a prestigious 1986 Ghanaian boarding school and loosely riffing off the plot of Mean Girls, this is going to be a side-splitting comedy and a must-see London production. Lyric Hammersmith Theatre from 8 June to 15 July.
untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play
Talk about excellent programming choices – while over in Sheffield there is a new vision for Miss Saigon courtesy of Anthony Lau and Robert Hastie, at the same time in Manchester is Kimber Lee's Bruntwood Prize International Award-winning asterix-heavy play untiled f*ck m*ss s**gon play. The latter is born out of an intense frustration around contemporary Asian stereotypes and the way in which they are perpetuated by Western cultural output – and will likely be a perfect centrepiece for yet another fab Royal Exchange season. Royal Exchange Manchester from 24 June to 23 July, with dates at the Young Vic in London to be revealed.
Brian Cox is back on stage! Sometimes six words are all you need to sell a show. In this new play, the Succession star plays that little-known composer Johann Sebastian Bach in Oliver Cotton's new play about a fall-out between musician and monarch. Theatre Royal Bath from 12 to 28 October.