15 unmissable new theatre shows in London to book now

From retrospectives of era-defining artists to cutting-edge immersive installations, the city’s art scene is thriving this season

When it comes to theatre, London is a scene-stealer. Not only is the capital home to some of the finest venues, it also harbours incredible theatrical talent, and the most exciting new theatre shows. This summer, audiences are in for a treat with productions including a bold reimagining of a Shakespeare classic, a Rupert Goold-directed play about football starring Joseph Fiennes and Lily Allen’s anticipated return to the West End. Here’s our edit of the best new theatre shows in London to have on your radar this summer.

The Glossary Edit

London Theatre Shows To Book Now

When Winston Went To War With The Wireless
Donmar Warehouse
Until 29 July

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The multi-award-winning stage and screen writer Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play, His Dark Materials for television) has turned his attention to the 1920s for what promises to be one of the best London theatre shows to book this summer. The play is set in May 1926, when Britain grinds to a halt as workers down tools for The General Strike. With no printing presses, the only source of news is either the government’s The British Gazette, edited by Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill (Adrian Scarborough), or the independent, fledgling British Broadcasting Company, led by John Reith (Stephen Campbell Moore). A gripping – and timely – play about the birth of a great British institution   and the challenges of impartiality.

Noel Coward Theatre
Until 19 August

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Cast Of Patriots by Marc Brenner

The gripping Patriots from Peter Morgan (Netflix’s The Crown, Frost/Nixon) has transferred to the West End with BAFTA-winning actor Tom Hollander reprising his role as Boris Berezovsky. The production is set in 1991, during the fall of the Soviet Union, when a new generation of oligarchs are fighting to seize control and follows billionaire businessman Berezovsky as he slowly finds himself ousted from the president’s inner circle to become public enemy number one. Rupert Goold directs a cast which sees Will Keen (His Dark Materials) return to play Putin, and Luke Thallon as Abramovich. “If the politicians cannot save Russia, then we businessmen must. We have not just the responsibility but the duty to become Russian heroes”

Romeo & Juliet
Almeida Theatre
6 June - 29 July

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Romeo And Juliet, Toheeb Jimoh and Isis Hainsworth

The tale of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, who encounter passion and tragedy at the mercy of Verona’s patriarchal society, comes to the London stage once more. This time, the Bard’s heart-wrenching tragedy is reimagined by Almeida Associate Director Rebecca Frecknall, who enraptured audiences with her electrifying production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Frecknell directs Isis Hainsworth (who last trod the boards in Nicholas Hytner’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Juliet playing opposite Emmy Award nominee Toheeb Jimoh, who you’ll likely recognise from the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso.

The Crucible
Gielgud Theatre
7 June - 2 September

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The Crucible Square by Felicity McCabe

The National Theatre’s lauded new production of Arthur Miller’s 1953 play – a semi-fictionalised story of the 17th century Salem witch trials – transfers to the West End for a limited season. Milly Alcock (House of the Dragon), Caitlin FitzGerald (Masters of Sex) and Brian Gleeson (Bad Sisters) tread the boards in this gripping production, where false allegations and private vendettas wreck havoc across the small community of Salem as it becomes riddled with fear and hysteria. With Lyndsey Turner directing and set design by the inimitable Es Devlin, Miller’s masterpiece – a parable of power and its abuse – will once again have its audience on the edge of their seats.

School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play
Lyric Hammersmith
8 June - 15 July

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Having met with critical acclaim in America, Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play premieres in the UK this summer. With Monique Touko directing (she won last year’s Stage Debut Award for Best Director) and Idris Elba signed up as Associate Producer, it will no doubt be brilliant. The comedy is set in a prestigious Ghanian girls’ boarding school in 1986. As they await the arrival of the Miss Ghana pageant recruiter, the teenage friendship group comes under self-imposed pressure – who will be chosen for Miss Ghana and at what cost? A production that manages to be both laugh-out-loud while tackling issues of racism, colourism and what it’s like to be a teenager wherever you are in the world.

Accidental Death of An Anarchist
Theatre Royal Haymarket
12 June - 9 September

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Daniel Rigby in Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Photography by Helen Murray

Following its hugely successful run at Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Daniel Raggett’s production of Accidental Death of An Anarchist arrives in the West End for a strictly limited season. The play, originally written by Italian playwright Dario Fo and premiering in 1970, has been brought bang up to date by Tom Basden. When an anarchist falls to death from a police station window, the question is – did he jump or was he pushed? There follows a series of cover-ups and corruption as the force’s competence comes under some serious scrutiny. Described as a “riotous satirical farce” by one reviewer, it stars BAFTA winner Daniel Rigby and Tony Gardner.

Dear England
National Theatre
10 June - 11 August

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This new theatre show by James Graham (Best of Enemies, Sherwood), directed by Rupert Goold (Spring Awakening, Judy) and with set design by Es Devlin, 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, and a hugely talented cast of actors appear as England’s young football stars.

The Pillowman
Duke of York’s Theatre
12 June - 2 September

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Pillowman featuring Steve Pemberton and Lily Allen shot by Rankin

We saw her in 2021 in the supernatural thriller 2.22: A Ghost Story and now Lily Allen returns to the stage in the first major revival of Martin McDonagh’s Olivier award-winning play The Pillowman. Lily stars alongside the BAFTA winning actor, writer and co-creator of The League of Gentleman Steve Pemberton in what will undoubtedly be one of the best London theatre shows to see this summer. Together they bring their talent to McDonagh’s dark comedy – described by critics as electrifying and savagely funny – that examines the role of the artist in society and the price we must pay for freedom of expression.

The Swell
Orange Tree Theatre
24 June - 29 July

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Saroja-Lily Ratnavel in The Swell by Rebecca Need-Menear

Orange Tree Theatre, Damsel Productions and The Women’s Prize for Playwriting together present Isley Lynn’s The Swell. Hannah Hauer-King directs this romantic drama – and world premiere – which follows the lives of Annie and her fiance Bel. As they approach their wedding day, they’re visited by an unexpected guest  – the free-spirited Flo – who ends up staying. A complicated love triangle ensues that could jeopardise the couple’s “happy ever after”. A stellar ensemble cast and a live musical score add to a play that puts six queer female characters centre stage, posing questions about relationships, fidelity and trust.

La Cage aux Folles
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
6 July - 16 September

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Regent's Park Open Air Theatre 2023 Season

While there are a few musicals across London this summer (A Strange Loop at Barbican; 42nd Street at Sadler’s Wells; the Donmar’s Next to Normal; and Groundhog Day at the Old Vic), La Cage aux Folles deserves a special mention. This glorious revival of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s show-stopper tells the story of gay nightclub owner Georges and his romantic partner of twenty years Albin. Everyone is blissfully happy until Georges’ son Jean-Michel brings his fianceé’s ultra conservative parents to meet the couple – at which point things begin to unravel. A heart-warming story of putting yourself last so that the ones you love can come first. Plus, of course, it’s at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, a firm fixture of summer in the city.

Dr Semmelweis
Harold Pinter Theatre
29 June - 7 October

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Mark Rylance is one of our finest actors – Jerusalem, Wolf Hall, Bridge of Spies – so have no doubt that Dr Semmelweis will get booked out fast (it had a sold-out run at Bristol Old Vic). Rylance plays the titular role – Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis, who was one of medicine’s greatest pioneers. The story is set in Vienna which, though a progressive and enlightened city, is still seeing thousands of women dying of childbirth every year. Only Semmelweis can recognise the silent killer, but can he convince his sceptical colleagues to accept his arguments and what will it cost him to make an almost impossible case? Directed by Tom Morris, this is a hot ticket.

Royal Court Theatre
6 July - 19 August

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Olivier and BAFTA-winning playwright Michael Wynne returns to the Royal Court with a new play directed by Vicky Featherstone. This time, he explores the different ways we cope in a world that is increasingly uncertain. Wynne does this through Doreen and her daughters; while she and her older two sit in their kitchen in Birkenhead, eating fish and chips and playing with their phones, upstairs, 17-year-old Megyn has locked herself in her grandmother’s bedroom, refusing to come out – and no-one can work out why. “They’re dealing with financial insecurity, economic decline, all pervasive technology and the potential impact of climate change,” Wynne says. “I was interested in exploring how different generations discuss issues and how having opposing opinions has become much more fraught – even within close families.”

The Effect
Lyttelton Theatre
1 August - 23 September

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Lucy Prebble’s The Effect is about Connie and Tristan – two young volunteers in a clinical drug trial who fall in love. But is their intoxicating chemistry real or a side effect of the chemicals – and how will the supervising doctors manage the illicit, unethical romance and its effect on their research? When it was first staged in 2012, the play met with critical acclaim. This revival – which stars Paapa Essiedu and Taylor Russell and sees director Jamie Lloyd (Cyrano de Bergerac, Betrayal, The Homecoming) return to the National Theatre for the first time in over a decade – promises to do the same.

A Mirror
Almeida Theatre
15 August - 23 September

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Tanya Reynolds
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Micheal Ward

It’s literally just been announced, so details are scarce about the world premiere of Sam Holcrfots’s new play A Mirror. 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 Old Vic
6 September - 28 October

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It’s a story we all know and love – George Bernard Shaw’s satire about Eliza Doolittle whose chance meeting with Professor Henry Higgins sees her undergo gruelling training to transform her from a “cockney” Covent Garden flower seller to a young lady mixing with the great and the good of society. Olivier and Tony Award-winner Richard Jones (Endgame, The Hairy Ape) directs a stellar cast of Olivier Award-winning Bertie Carvel (The 47th, The Crown) and Patsy Ferran (Camp Siegfried, A Streetcar Named Desire) in what promises to be a dazzling take on this humane comedy about love and the English class system.

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