As usual, my 2023 theatre preview looks a little beyond the big names hitting the West End (although, Cheryl?! Sign. Me. Up!) to find some of the more interesting shows opening across the UK
Hamlet, Southwark Playhouse
If you’re gonna do Shakespeare (that appeals to me, at least), you gotta do something different in this day and age and ensemble-focused Lazarus Theatre look set to do just that as they strip Hamlet of the adults and present the play through the eyes of its disaffected youths.
Steel Magnolias, UK tour
Best known for its iconic film adaptation, Robert Harling’s play is a stirring depiction of female friendship in the small-town American South. I’ve enjoyed previous productions on tour and at the Hope Theatre and a quality cast here – including Laura Main, Harriet Thorpe and Lucy Speed – promises much.
Calling something “a modern, queer Greek tragedy” will usually grab my attention and it should yours too, as Elsie Yager makes her London debut with this thought-provoking take on so-called ‘classic myth’.
The Beekeeper Of Aleppo, Nottingham Playhouse and UK tour
Reuniting the team that produced the international stage sensation The Kite Runner, The Beekeeper Of Aleppo opens at Nottingham Playhouse on 3rd February before heading to Liverpool Playhouse and then a national tour in the Spring and early Summer. Directed by Miranda Cromwell, Nesrin Alrefaai and Matthew Spangler have adapted Christy Lefteri’s best-selling novel
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, UK Tour
After successful runs at the National Theatre, in the West End and a Christmas season at the Lowry, Neil Gaiman’s epic fantasy now tours 29 venues across the UK. Katy Rudd’s production is a glorious treat for the eyes and Joel Horwood’s adaptation is equal parts haunting and heartbreaking.
Can’t Wait To Leave, Waterloo East
Stephen Leach’s debut play is a solo performance about a young bisexual man looking for meaning and direction in life after being ditched in London by his older brother. It promises “a bitingly frank portrayal of loneliness and self-discovery” which seems just about right for a February night.
Beginning, Royal Exchange
David Eldridge’s opening salvo in his ongoing relationship trilogy was another success at both the National and in the West End, so it is great to see it getting renewed life up in Manchester. Bryony Shanahan’s production will star Gerard Kearns and Erin Shanagher and the glorious intimacy of the writing means it’s definitely one to book.
The Way Old Friends Do, Birmingham Rep and UK tour
In 1988, two school friends tentatively come out to one another: one as gay, the other as an ABBA fan. Thirty-some years later, a chance meeting sets them on a brand-new path and they decide to form the world’s first ABBA tribute band – in drag. Ian Hallard’s new play promises a heartwarming time, plus the voices of Miriam Margoyles and Paul O’Grady.
Top Girls, Liverpool Everyman
Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls is 40, but this ground-breaking play isn’t feeling its age. Far from it. Now reimagined for Liverpool and the Everyman by Churchill herself, this dazzlingly inventive and fiercely funny classic is about to be reborn under the burst of creativity from new Creative Director Suba Das.
Macbeth, imitating the dog, UK tour
Truth be told, the idea of another Macbeth doesn’t thrill me so much but imitating the dog’s promise to give us a neon noir thriller with “startling new scenes, stunning visuals, and a powder-keg intensity” which should make it worth a look.
Ladies’ Day, New Vic & Bolton Octagon
A northern comedy about four women who work in a fish factory? Hook me up! Amanda Whittington’s play looks like a heartwarming little number that should rouse spirits as we wait for Spring to kick in. Check it out at either the New Vic in Staffordshire or the Octagon in Bolton.
Romeo and Julie, Sherman Theatre & National Theatre
Originally scheduled pre-pandemic, writer Gary Owen and director Rachel O’Riordan reunite for this modern Cardiff love story inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. With the brilliant Callum Scott Howells and Rosie Sheehy leading the cast, the wait will surely have been worth it.
The Good Person of Szechwan, Sheffield Theatres & Lyric Hammersmith
A co-production by Sheffield Theatres, ETT and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Nina Segal’s adaptation marks the 80th anniversary of Bertold Brecht’s play. I’ve never really seen that much Brecht work so Anthony Lau’s reimagined production could see me investigating once more.
The Merchant of Venice 1936, Watford Palace
Tracy-Ann Oberman reinvents the role of Shylock as this production shines a light on an earlier dark chapter in our history – the growth of a British Fascist party in the 1930s and the East End community coming together to stop them in the Battle of Cable Street.
DNA, New Wolsey
I love Douglas Rintoul’s statement of intent with his opening production as Chief Executive/Artistic Director – nurturing talent from the local area and offering four professional debuts, this energising play should spark a bold new era here in Ipswich et ses environs.
Richard III, Liverpool Playhouse & Rose Theatre, Kingston
There’s more Shakespeare on this list than you might have expected but Adjoa Andoh directing and starring in Richard III. Hell yes.
Roman Holiday, Theatre Royal Bath
Not much known about this to date, but the prospect of an adaptation of this Academy Award-winning film with a bunch of Cole Porter songs scattered throughout is hard to resist. Jeremy Sams directs in June.
A Little Life, Richmond Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre
Come on 😉 Elliot Cowan in an Ivo van Hove production… you knew it would have to appear somewhere on this list hehe!
James Norton, Luke Thompson, Omari Douglas, Zach Wyatt, Zubin Varla, Nathalie Armin and Emilio Doorgasingh complete the dreamily good cast.