10 brilliant new London theatre shows to book tickets for this autumn
When it comes to London theatre shows, the capital is rightly famous for its cultural offerings, which are some of the finest in the world. Whether you’re booking tickets for a West End show, taking in a classic revival or watching a world premiere, there’s no shortage of talent on the London stage. This autumn, audiences will be treated to two stellar Shakespeare revivals, a one-man Chekhov show led by Andrew Scott and a new play starring Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas. Here’s our edit of the best new London theatre shows to have on your radar this autumn.
Harold Pinter Theatre
17 October – 23 December
When you see the names Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James on the same cast sheet, you know you’re onto a winner. The starry duo appeared on screen together in the 2020 Netflix adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and now they’re taking to the stage to bring Penelope Skinner’s new play, Lyonesse, to life. Scott Thomas plays reclusive actress Elaine, who disappeared 30 years ago but is now ready to reveal her story. She enlists young film executive Kate (James) to come to her remote Cornish home and help with her big comeback. While details remain thin on the ground, Skinner has described the play as a ‘flipped’ revenge tragedy, so we can expect a few surprises along the way, as well as powerhouse performances from the two leads.
God of Carnage
Yasmina Reza’s blisteringly funny Olivier and Tony Award-winning play, God of Carnage, is back with a revival at the Lyric Hammersmith this autumn. The show centres around two sets of parents who meet to discuss their children’s recent misdemeanours – 11-year-old Ferdinand has just knocked out Bruno’s two front teeth in the park – in a suitably calm and civilised way. But it isn’t long before the night descends into chaos, with more tears and tantrums than a toddler’s birthday party. Doctor Who and Dreamland actress Freema Agyeman starts in this darkly comic production, directed by the Lyric Associate Director Nicholai La Barrie.
The House of Bernarda Alba
16 November – 6 January
Fresh from her star turn as Roy matriarch Lady Caroline Collingwood in the final season of Succession, Harriet Walter is looking to return to her Olivier-winning ways as she takes on the role of another formidable mother figure: Bernarda Alba. Determined to guard her reputation against her daughter’s desire for passion and freedom, this radical new version of Federico García Lorca’s modern masterpiece The House of Bernarda Alba is a must-see, particularly seeing as Walter’s not the only big name attached. Director-of-the-moment Rebecca Frecknall – who’s just overseen Olivier Award-winning revivals of two of the biggest London shows of recent years, Cabaret and A Streetcar Named Desire – will be making her directorial debut at the National, while writer Alice Birch (Normal People, The Wonder) helms the adaptation.
Duke of York’s Theatre
15 September – 21 October
While a one-man show of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, the fact that this version stars the always excellent Andrew Scott is sure to persuade even the most critical of theatre lovers to invest in a ticket. The role marks Scott’s first major stage part in four years, and will see the Fleabag star taking on every single role in the renowned Russian playwright’s masterpiece, which has been adapted by Simon Stephens. It’s all but guaranteed to be one of the hottest tickets in town this autumn.
8 December – 10 February 2024
Another Shakespeare revival that’s set to sell out months in advance (in fact, most tickets have already gone), the Donmar Warehouse will be playing host to Macbeth over the Christmas season, with David Tennant taking on the part of the damaged king. Well-versed in playing dastardly villains on the small screen, it feels like a part he was born to play – so it’s surprising that this will mark the first time he’s tackled the Scottish play in his illustrious stage career. The Good Fight star Cush Jumbo will be joining him as Lady Macbeth, creating a truly formidable duo. Directed by Max Webster – who has form with Shakespeare revivals after last year’s excellent version of Henry V, starring Kit Harington – we’re expecting great things.
21 September – 6 January
This is set to be one of the most talked about musicals in the West End this autumn, thanks to the fact that Nicole Sherzinger will be taking on the lead role of famed film star Norma Desmond. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard marks Sherzinger’s first return to the stage since her Olivier-nominated turn as Grizabella the Glamour Cat in the 2014 West End revival of Cats, so fans will be on tenterhooks to see if she can deliver an even more spellbinding performance. London theatre favourite Jamie Lloyd is directing the intriguing revival, and is sure to put his inimitable stamp on the show.
30 September – 6 January
Maggie O’Farrell’s bestselling novel about Shakespeare’s wife Agnes and the death of their son, Hamnet, always seemed ripe for a Royal Shakespeare Company stage version. Theatre head honchos were so sure of the success of Lolita Chakrabarti’s adaptation that they already commissioned it for a West End run before it had even taken to the Stratford-upon-Avon stage. Charmed star Madeleine Mantock takes on the role of Agnes in Erica Whyman’s production, which tells the story of the tragic death of Shakespeare’s beloved son, Hamnet, as seen through the eyes of his mother. Trust us when we say there won’t be a dry eye in the house by the end.
21 October – 9 December
If there’s anyone you want to see tackling the role of King Lear, it’s Kenneth Branagh. The veteran actor has more Shakespeare performances under his belt than most, and this production at the Wyndham’s Theatre marks a very welcome return to the London stage, from which he’s been absent since 2016. Branagh stars and directs in this classic tragedy about love and power, for which he’ll be joined by a cast of talented RADA graduates. The show is set to play for only 50 performances, so you’d better be quick off the mark if you want to nab yourself a ticket.
13 October – 2 December
If the mania around the latest season of cult TV series The Bear is anything to go by, the world is more than ready for more restaurant-focused content, so this new London theatre show should go down a treat. Held at the ever-wonderful Donmar Warehouse, Clyde’s takes place in the bustling kitchen of a run-down Pennsylvania truck stop. There a team of formerly incarcerated staff strives to create the perfect sandwich, in a bid to right the wrongs of their past. The European premiere sees double Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Lynn Nottage reunited with award-winning director Lynette Linton for what’s set to be a must-see show this autumn.
Prince Edward Theatre
9 October – 13 January 2024
After its phenomenally successful sold-out run at The National, Rupert Goold and James Graham’s new show is transferring to the West End, giving those who missed out on tickets the first time around a further chance to catch the smash hit show. The play shines a light on the beautiful game – or the not so beautiful game, as it turns out. As the blurb says: “The country that gave the world football has since delivered a painful pattern of loss. Why can’t England’s men win at their own game?” Joseph Fiennes plays Gareth Southgate, who doesn’t have the best track record for penalties, as he faces up to the painful past to take “team and country and back to the promised land.” Gina McKee stars as renowned performance psychologist Pippa Grange, Es Devlin tackles the set design and a hugely talented cast of actors appear as England’s young football stars.
15 August - 23 September
Details remain scarce about the world premiere of Sam Holcrofts’s new play A Mirror, but what we do know is that it has an outstanding cast including Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting), Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education) and Micheal Ward (Empire of Light, Top Boy) and that it is directed by Jeremy Herrin. The play – billed as elusive and explosive – tackles ideas of censorship, authorship and free speech, all in the context of Leyla and Joel’s wedding. As the production information states: “This performance is being staged without a licence from the Ministry. We recognise the risk that each and every one of you is taking by attending, and we salute your courage.” So as the nuptials unfold on stage, who knows what will happen.
The Motive and the Cue
Noël Coward Theatre
13 October – 2 December
Another hit National Theatre production that’s making a West End transfer, Jack Thorne’s whip-smart new play will be at the Noël Coward Theatre for a strictly limited 15-week run, bringing its stellar cast along with it. Directed by Sam Mendes, Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen, Sherlock) takes on the role of famed director John Gielgud opposite Johhny Flynn (Emma, Operation Mincemeat) as Richard Burton, in a startling retelling of the making of the pair’s Hamlet on Broadway. Downton Abbey’s Tuppence Middleton, meanwhile, stars at Elizabeth Taylor, newly married to Burton. Dubbed ‘a love letter to theatre’, grab a ticket while you still can.
23 October – 25 November
East London favourite Arcola Theatre has a jam-packed roster of shows for their autumn season, and top of the bill is this eagerly awaited stage production of Haruki Murakami’s much-loved novel, Sputnik Sweetheart. This is the first time the book has ever been adapted for the stage and it’s in very safe hands, with the adaptation coming courtesy of celebrated playwright Bryony Lavery. Directed by Melly Still (Coram Boy, My Brilliant Friend), the coming-of-age play moves from cosy coffee shops in Tokyo all the way to the beaches of Greece, as we follow one young man on his mission to find his missing best friend, Sumire.