best theatre london 2023 cabaret
Image: Cabaret

The best theatre and dance to see in London in 2023

13 Jan 2023 | Updated on: 04 Jan 2024 |By Zoe Gunn

Don’t skip a cultural beat with the best plays, ballets and live performances opening in the capital this year

When it comes to the best theatre in London, it pays to be quick off the mark. Didn’t catch Jodie Comer’s headlining performance in Prima Facie last year? Still wishing you’d booked tickets to see Paul Mescal in A Streetcar Named Desire before they sold out?

Make 2023 the year you get ahead of the curve with our guide to the must-see plays, ballets and theatre coming to London this year. From the return of old favourites, such as Matthew Bourne’s stellar take on Romeo and Juliet, to fresh new productions by the capital’s most experimental theatre companies, you’ve now got no excuse.

The Unfriend at Criterion Theatre

the unfriend play

Fan of Doctor Who, Inside No. 9 or Sherlock? This is the play for you. Bringing together some of the driving forces behind these acclaimed televison shows, including writer Steven Moffat, director Mark Gatiss and actor Reece Shearsmith, this dark comedy tells the story of a holiday friendship that outstays its welcome – with deadly consequences.

When: 15-31 January 2023
Price: From £11.25

Titus Andronicus at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

titus andronicus 2023

Shakespeare’s first revenge tragedy isn’t one they typically teach in shools. Probably because its story centres around the titular murderous Roman general who goes on a killing spree after ending up on the wrong side of Tamora, Queen of the Goths. In fact, so graphic is its violence that the disclaimer on the Globe website reads: ‘This play contains incidents and themes of anti-black racism, sexual assault and its aftermath, extreme violence and death, including bodily mutilations, cannibalism, rape and self-harm.’ Nice.

If you’ve got the stomach for it, this new production by theatreland darling Jude Christian is sure to be one of the most exciting new openings of the year. Not afraid to grapple with the thorny end of any given subject, Christian’s plays promise shock and awe, and invite an almost physical reaction.

When: 19 January – 15 April 2023
Price: From £5

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

Okay, we admit this one isn’t exactly new – Cabaret has been playing to full houses at the Kit Kat Club since November 2021 – but it is getting an exciting new cast this year. Following in the footsteps of Eddie Redmayne, Jessie Buckley and Omari Douglas, Sex Education’s Aimee Lou Wood and Olivier Award-nominated John McCrea (Cruella, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) will be joining the cast as Sally Bowles and Emcee, respectively. If you’ve yet to catch this incredible revival, now is the perfect opportunity.

When: 13 February – 27 May 2023
Price: From £25

A Little Life at Harold Pinter Theatre

a little life play london
Image: Charlie Gray

Visionary director Ivo van Hove will bring his adaptation of Hanya Yanagihara’s Booker-shortlisted novel A Little Life to the Harold Pinter Theatre this spring – with an all-star cast to boot. Led by Happy Valley’s James Norton, who will be joined on stage by Bridgerton’s Luke Thompson, It’s A Sin’s Omari Douglas, The Witcher’s Zach Wyatt and The Crown‘s Elliott Cowan, this is a tale of college friends pulled asunder by ambition, pride and the mysteries of the past.

When: 25 March – 18 June 2023
Price: From £15

The Secret Life of Bees at Almeida Theatre

almeida theatre
Image: Shutterstock

Islington’s Almeida Theatre has made a name for itself as one of the capital’s premier theatre locations outside the West End (it’s currently home to the aforementioned Paul Mescal production) and its 2023 line-up promises some seriously exciting new plays. Among the highlights is The Secret Life of Bees, an adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s acclaimed 2001 novel, which later became a film starring Dakota Johnson, Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah.

Telling the story of a lonely teenager who runs away from home and finds herself embraced by the Boatwright sisters in small-town South Carolina, there are some serious heavyweights behind this production, including Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage and Tony Award-winning composer Duncan Sheik. Not to be missed.

When: 8 April – 27 May 2023
Price: From £30

Northern Ballet’s Great Gatsby at Sadler’s Wells

After no fewer than four sold-out tours since it debuted in 2013, the Northern Ballet’s gorgeous production of Great Gatsby will be touring the UK again in 2023, making a stop at the capital’s premiere dance venue, Sadler’s Wells. Directed and choreographed by David Nixon, with music by Four Weddings and a Funeral’s Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, expect classical ballet combined with the flair, glamour and excess of the Roaring Twenties.

When: 16-20 May 2023
Price: From £15

The Pillowman at Duke of York’s Theatre

lily allen
Image: Shutterstock

20 years after it first debuted, Martin McDonagh’s dystopian black comedy will once again make its way to London this year. The original production featured acting legends David Tennant and Jim Broadbent and the 2023 revival promises an equally stellar cast, with Lily Allen starring as the traditionally male lead Katurian. She will be joined by Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen, Killing Eve, Inside No. 9) in this tale of a writer questioned by totalitarian authorities over a spate of murders which bear an uncanny resemblance to her short stories.

When: 10 June – 2 September 2023
Price: From £20

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet at Sadler’s Wells

Dance aficionados need no introduction to the world of Matthew Bourne and his New Adventures ballet company. Famed for taking traditional ballets and reworking them in an imaginative and progressive style, one of his most critically-acclaimed productions, Romeo and Juliet, will return to London in 2023 and is sure to sell out. Set to a refreshed orchestration of the classic Prokofiev score, the Shakespearian tale of star-crossed lovers is relocated to a mental institution, providing the backdrop for an intense and thought-provoking reimagining.

When: 1 August – 2 September 2023
Price: From £15

Read more: The must-see London exhibitions of 2023