james debate
james debate

Sunday 5 February 2023

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2023 Hot List. This week we will be having a look at the most exciting theatrical productions coming to the stage in the coming year.

best anticipated new theatre theatrical production 2023 hot list

Theatre is in vogue again. We talk about it around the proverbial watercooler. The biggest names in the dramatic arts, all around the world, flock to the London stage. 2023 is set to feature household names, on and off the stage, working their craft. We have world premieres, West End transfers, Broadway hits making their way across the Atlantic for the first time and, believe it or not, still some postponed 2020 shows due to make their long-awaited debuts. 

2023 is an exciting year for theatre in and around London. So without further ado here's our list of the top 10 theatrical productions to keep an eye on in 2023, starting with number 10:

10. "Next to Normal" by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, at the Donmar Warehouse

london best theatre 2023 next to normal musical brian yorkey tom kitt donmar
We start off with Next To Normal, the London debut of the acclaimed Broadway musical about a bipolar woman coming to terms with her family's history.

With book and music by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt respectively, Next to Normal was a Tony and Pulitzer prize winning phenomenon during its time on Broadway, and a move to the London stage was always an inevitability. 

That this long awaited debut will come at the Donmar, rather than one of London's bigger stages, might come as a bit of a surprise. But this will ensure the ideal intimate experience for those who manage to get tickets when its run begins in August of this year.

9. "Best of Enemies" by James Graham, at the Noel Coward Theatre

london best theatre 2023 james graham best enemies noel coward zachary quinto david harewood
James Graham is one those playwrights that demands attention. His recent work reads like a guide to some of the finest work in topical or political theatre, with This House, Ink, and Quiz to his name, among others.

His latest, Best of Enemies, is a fictionalised depiction of the 1968 debates between intellectuals William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal during the Democratic National Convention, the ensuing fallout and litigation, and the legacy that its coverage left on political discourse in America. 

This latest West End transfer stars two major film actors in Zachary Quinto and David Harewood and has been met with widespread critical acclaim. The current run only extends until the end of February (although another extension or transfer seems likely), so see it while you can.

8. "Free Your Mind" by Sabrina Mahfouz & Danny Boyle, at Factory International

best theatre 2023 manchester danny boyle free your mind matrix
Now for something a little bit different, in many ways. 

Free Your Mind is an immersive theatrical dance adaptation of The Matrix featuring hundreds of dancers, debuting at Factory International in Manchester, taking place over multiple "flexible spaces".

Sound weird, wild and ambitious? Sure. But it's also being directed by none other than Danny Boyle, the legendary film, stage and Olympics director who has won just about every accolade under the sun and produced work tantamount to genius over the past thirty years. It doesn't really matter what Free Your Mind is, with Boyle attached you're going to want to see it.

"Oklahoma!" by Rodgers and Hammerstein, at Wyndham's Theatre

london 2023 best theatre oklahoma rodgers hammerstein wyndhamI know what you're thinking. Really? That Oklahoma!? The cheesy, schmaltzy aw shucks musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein? Yes, is my answer. But this is Oklahoma! like you have never seen it before.

The original musical is primarily about love triangles, awkward romances and drama, but in an innocent, high school kind of way. This new interpretation, revived for Broadway in 2021 and the subject o widespread acclaim, is a much more provocative piece of work. Darker, more sexually charged, more real.

It's the same play, but reinterpreted in an entirely new light and energy. It should be an exciting watch for any musical fans, but particularly for those acquainted with the original.

6. "The Secret Life of Bees" by Lynn Nottage, Duncan Sheik and Susan Birkenhead, at the Almeida

best theatre london 2023 secret life of bees nottage sheik birkenhead almeida Another musical, but this time a brand new world premiere. This one looks to be something quite special.

The Secret Life of Bees is a musical adaptation of the award winning novel of the same name. A coming of age story set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. 

The adaptation has a huge amount of theatrical pedigree behind it, including Lynn Nottage, writer of the incredible award winning Sweat, as well as the musical minds behind the Tony Award winning Spring Awakening. This is going to be a big one when it hits the Almeida this April.

5. "Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead" by Olga Tokarczuk and Simon McBurney, at the Barbican

best theatre 2023 london drive your plow over bones dead simon mcburney complicite barbicanA new production from Simon McBurney's legendary Complicit√© theatre company is always an event to be savoured. Complicit√© are renowned for their creativity and invention, often making groundbreaking use of technology, minimalism and visual ingenuity.

This latest work adapts a violent, genre defying Nobel Prize winning novel of the same name by Olga TokarczukSet in remote rural Poland, men from the local hunting club are dying in mysterious circumstances and Janina Duszejko – an eccentric older local woman, ex-engineer, environmentalist, devoted astrologer and enthusiastic translator of William Blake – has her suspicions. 

DYPOTBOTD is touring the country through 2023. For those in London, it will be at the Barbican in March.

4. "Trouble in Butetown" by Diana Nneka Atuona, at the Donmar Warehouse

london best theatre 2023 trouble in butetown donmar diana nneka atuonaBack to the Donmar with Trouble in Butetown

A world premiere play by highly regarded playwright Diana Nneka Atuona, Trouble in Butetown is the story of a black GI gone AWOL during wartime, seeking refuge in an illegal boarding house set in the port town of Butetown, Cardiff. 

It's part war story, part social commentary, but ultimately just a fascinating and personal story of a man trying to leave his old life behind and escape prejudice. Butetown is set to be the spring tentpole in the Donmar's theatre lineup when it launches at the end of February.

3. "The Pillowman" by Martin McDonagh, at Duke of York's Theatre

london best theatre 2023 pillowman martin mcdonagh duke of yorkOne of the most celebrated works of the multi award winning playwright, screenwriter and director Martin McDonagh, best known for his work in Hollywood that includes In Bruges, Seven Psycopaths, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. The Pillowman made its debut at the National Theatre back in 2003. Now, some 19 years later, it returns to the stage at Duke of York's Theatre.

The Pillowman is the story of Katurian, an author living in a police state whose work comes under scrutiny when it becomes apparent that the violence depicted in his writing bears striking similarities to a series of gruesome child murders that take place. This West-End revival comes with a fairly prominent star in Aaron Taylor Johnson, and a dark turn for comedian Steve Pemberton

This was one of those productions originally slated for 2020 before the pandemic hit. The Pillowman is finally going to hit the stage in summer of 2023.

2. "The Motive and the Cue" by Jack Thorne, at the National Theatre

motive cue jack thorne national hamlet gielgud richard burton elizabeth taylor sam mendes johnny flynn mark gatiss london best theatre 2023
Some productions just have everything on paper. The Motive and the Cue is an exciting new play fictionalising the making of the 1964 production of Hamlet by Richard Burton and John Gielgud and the creative tensions that nearly tore the team apart.

Written by highly prominent film, TV and theatre writer Jack Thorne, whose body of work is too numerous to itemise, but includes films like The Aeronauts and The Swimmers, TV series including This is England, His Dark Materials and The Eddy, and best known in theatre for his Olivier Award winning work with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It will be directed by a legendary director of the film and stage who needs no introduction, Sam Mendes, and feature a big name cast that includes Johnny Flynn, Mark Gatiss and Tuppence Middleton

The Motive and the Cue will be the National's big summer production on the Lyttleton Stage.

1. "Patriots" by Peter Morgan, at the Noel Coward Theatre

london best theatre 2023 patriots peter morgan almeida noel coward ruper goold tom hollander
We end our theatre preview with the new play from legendary playwright Peter Morgan, known for Frost/Nixon, The Queen, The Crown, and many, many others brilliant works. 

His latest, Patriots, looks at the scramble for power between Russia's oligarchs following the collapse of the Soviet Union, focusing particularly on Boris Berezovsky, played by the award winning Tom Hollander. The presence of Rupert Goold, a man with an enviable track record in theatre, in the director's chair is the final ingredient to what should be an electric piece of theatre.

Patriots will play at the Noel Coward Theatre from May, transfering from The Almeida.

So there you have it folks: 2023 in theatre. Tune in soon for our next instalment of the Hot List, covering the essential new music coming this year!

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