The internet went bonkers on the announcement that the 27-year-old Brummie would be the linchpin of much-anticipated Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. In what’s basically an origin story for fascist President Snow, so vividly brought to life by Donald Sutherland in the 2012 movie, Blyth plays the young Coriolanus, an ambitious teen forced to mentor rebellious tribute Lucy Gray (Rachel Zegler, of West Side Story fame). Blyth was wholly convincing, in Terence Davies’ Benediction, as the gentle Glen Byam Shaw. If he is as compelling as sneaky Snow, this blockbuster could be transformative for him.
Sophie Kauer is the British-German cellist who is such a revelation in Todd Field’s Oscar-tipped black comedy Tár. As Olga Metkina, the Russian newcomer who catches the eye of a fêted and languorously predatory conductor (Cate Blanchett, on top form), Kauer is mesmerising – seductive, steely and subtle. She’s currently studying music in Norway, but if the 21-year-old wants to pursue acting, she’ll have no shortage of offers (and hinted, in our interview with her last week, that she may have already had one or two).
She already has a dazzling CV, including playing Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance with Somebody, but 2023 should be Naomi Ackie’s biggest year yet. She’s the star of Pussy Island, a provocative gender-wars drama in which the 30-year-old Londoner is a tough LA waitress, determined to outsmart Channing Tatum’s dodgy tech mogul. Ackie also has a central role in sci-fi thriller Mickey 17, Bong Joon-ho’s first film since Parasite. The plot revolves around a group of clones. How cool that Ackie is one of a kind.
Bally Gill gets one-on-one time with Judi Dench and Jennifer Saunders in Richard Eyre’s Allelujah (based on Alan Bennett’s play about old age and the NHS). Coventry-born Gill comes across as as properly nice chap on social media and is a brilliant actor – he has won awards for his stage work with the Royal Shakespeare Company. So while he doesn’t need the blessing of a star like Saunders, the fact that she recently described him as “tremendous” and “wonderful” certainly won’t hurt his chances re becoming a household name.
Though Rosy McEwen knocked it out of the park as Desdemona in the National Theatre’s production of Othello, Blue Jean shows she’s just at home on the big screen as the stage. Her superb turn as Jean, a clenched, semi-closeted PE teacher struggling to be her best self in Thatcher’s Britain, just snagged her a BIFA for Best Lead Performance and could well earn her a Bafta (nominations are announced on Friday). The film receives its UK release on February 10. After that, you can see the 27-year-old in Rosemary’s Baby prequel Apartment 7A, from acclaimed Relic director Natalie Erika James. The future looks very rosy.
In 2019, Charlotte Regan made a witty short film called Oats & Barley with Harris Dickinson. They’ve teamed up again for her feature-film debut, Scrapper, in which a motherless and uncannily self-sufficient Londoner is confronted by her errant dad (Dickinson, sporting a hilariously two-tone hairdo). Yet it was grime that got Hackney-based Regan into filmmaking. Aged 15 she decided that, since she couldn’t rap as well as her friends, she should shoot videos of them instead. Now 28, she has pals in high places (Scrapper, which screens at Sundance this month, was executive produced by Michael Fassbender) but she’s no nepo baby. Like all the people on this list, she’s just really talented.
Watch out for Anjana Vasan potentially stealing the Almeida’s delayed Streetcar from the production’s ostensible stars Paul Mescal and Patsy Ferran. The London-based, Singapore-born actress and singer-songwriter previously worked with Ferran and director Rebecca Frecknall at this address on a revelatory reimagining of Williams’ Summer and Smoke in 2018, and she was astonishing as Niru in Tanika Gupta’s brilliant reimagining of A Doll’s House, with the story transposed to colonial India at the Lyric Hammersmith in 2019. Since then she starred in Channel 4 comedy We Are Lady Parts on telly, to huge acclaim. It’s great that she’s back on stage.
This is a bit of a bumper year for the exciting artist, following the publication of their autobiography None of the Above in 2022 and the success at the Bush Theatre of their one-trans-woman play Overflow, set in a ladies’ loo. First up in January is Sound of the Underground, an homage to London’s alternative club scene that marks Alabanza’s first full-length play for the Royal Court (they also contributed to the venue’s Living Newspapers project during lockdown). Then in March they present the farewell run of their breakthrough work Burgerz – reclaiming a fast-food related transphobic attack – at the Purcell Room.
London-born Craig, still only 35, has been steadily building an eclectic CV, directing works by debbie tucker green (the lower-case is the writer’s preference) and the late Sarah Kane, a National Theatre Hamlet for young audiences (which returns this year), a panto, and an enthralling revival last year of August Wilson’s Jitney at the Old Vic. This February, she makes her Donmar Warehouse debut with Diana Nneka Atuona’s play Trouble in Butetown, which is set in an illegal boarding house in Cardiff during wartime. This young director is definitely on the rise.
Hankering after Call My Agent and its effortlessly stylish cast? If you missed the West End debut of Camille Cottin, who played Andrea, at the ENO last year, you can catch Assaad Bouab, who played her boss and antagonist (and then babyfather). The French-Moroccan actor makes his National Theatre debut in February opposite Janet McTeer and McKenzie Davis in Simon Stone’s new version of Phaedra, which promises to be as radical as Stone’s Yerma with Billie Piper at the Young Vic. A stalwart of the French stage, Bouab, 42, appeared in Racine’s Phèdre in 2004, and has racked up screen credits this side of the Channel since in The Pursuit of Love, Peaky Blinders and Bad Sisters.
Is Kadiff Kirwan one of the TV industry’s best kept secrets? Either way, 2023 could well be the year he breaks through into the mainstream. With roles in Timewasters, Chewing Gum, I May Destroy You and This is Going to Hurt under his belt, he’s also found time to appear in the brilliant spy drama Slow Horses alongside Gary Oldman, and will be starting 2023 playing a cheerful religious evangelist in the Channel 4 comedy Everyone Else Burns. Quite a CV - and he’s also working on developing several comedy series. Watch this space.
The ever-versatile Thaddea Graham is marking 2023 by going back to school - that is, she’s one of the newest cast members to join hit series Sex Education. It marks the latest high-profile role for the actress, who was born in China and raised in County Down. Despite only graduating in 2018 (from London’s Arts Educational School), she’s appeared in the BBC’s horror show Wreck (read our interview with her on it here) and ITV’s crime drama Redemption and bagged a lead role in Netflix’s 2021 fantasy series The Irregulars. And, of course, she’s been on Doctor Who - because what British actor worth their salt hasn’t been?
Ruby Stokes has already appeared in one of TV’s hottest shows, playing the irritable Francesca Bridgerton in Netflix’s smash-hit show. Born in Hackney, she made her big-screen debut in 2016, playing a younger version of Rooney Mara in the film Una; since then, she’s been the voice of Kitty in the acclaimed animated film Where is Anne Frank? and starred in supernatural thriller A Banquet. More big things are on the horizon in 2023: in addition to a lead role in fantasy series Lockwood & Co, she’ll be appearing alongside Samantha Morton in Paramount+ show The Burning Girls. Phew - expect to see a lot of Stokes this year.
Cork native Máiréad Tyers has only been acting a few years, but already has an impressive list of acting credits to her name. Ranging from highbrow (Kenneth Branagh’s 2021 film Belfast, for instance) to thrillers (Felicity Jones’ period drama Borderland), Tyers will be kicking 2023 off in style with a starring role in Disney+’s fantasy show Extraordinary, where she’ll be playing Jen, the only person without powers in a world full of superheroes.