See 'Doctor Who' actors in the West End
From Jenna Coleman to Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat, discover the sci-fi show's influence in the West End.
If you’re a keen sci-fi fan, you might well think that several of our current West End stars look familiar. That’s because they’ve travelled with the Doctor through the galaxies – or perhaps they’ve played alien foes, or written some of the most beloved episodes.
Yes, there’s major crossover between the BBC’s long-running drama Doctor Who and London’s theatre scene. (The latter might seem like a small world at times, but clearly it’s bigger on the inside!) From lead actors to key guest stars, numerous Who alumni have also trodden the boards. Plus we even had a stage incarnation – Doctor Who: Time Fracture.
Of course, we all know that David Tennant, who has just returned to the TV series, is also an acclaimed classical stage actor and has reprised his partnership with Who companion Catherine Tate (aka Donna Noble) in Much Ado About Nothing. His successor, Matt Smith, is also partial to theatre – whether it’s starring in the American Psycho musical or joining Claire Foy for an intimate two-hander.
But they’re far from the only ones mixing TARDIS adventures with Shakespearean declaiming, big musicals or contemporary plays. So, follow us on this who’s who tour of Doctor Who stars in London shows. We can promise wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey fun – and plenty of great booking recommendations. Geronimo!
Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s The Unfriend
Doctor Who’s modern-day saviour Russell T Davies commissioned Moffat to write several episodes during his tenure – and was duly rewarded with some of the standout instalments, including “Blink”, “The Empty Child”, “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “Silence in the Library”. Moffat then succeeded Davies as showrunner from the fifth series onwards.
Gatiss is also a keen Who writer, contributing nine episodes of the show (and acting in several as well), plus four novels and several audio plays. In addition, he wrote the biographical TV drama An Adventure in Space and Time, about the creation of the Doctor Who series and its original lead actor, William Hartnell.
The pair have collaborated on previous productions, most notably the smash-hit BBC updating of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch, and have joined forces again for The Unfriend – Moffat’s playwriting debut, directed by Gatiss. A dark comedy about the houseguest from hell, the show is transferring to the West End following a successful run at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2022, starring Reece Shearsmith (who appeared in An Adventure in Space and Time), Amanda Abbingdon and Frances Barber (aka Doctor Who baddie Madame Kovarian).
Arthur Darvill in Oklahoma!
Darvill memorably played Rory Williams, fiancé of the Eleventh Doctor’s companion Amy Pond, in series 5-7 of the show. He and Amy conceived a child in the TARDIS, who (spoilers!) turned out to be enigmatic time-traveller River Song, and ultimately the couple lived out their lives in New York after being sent back in time by the Weeping Angels.
As for Darvill, he went on to appear in TV crime drama Broadchurch, and joined another sci-fi franchise when he played Rip Hunter in Legends of Tomorrow. He’s at home on stage, too, starring in musical Once (on Broadway and in the West End) and plays like Doctor Faustus, Our Boys, Treasure Island and Rare Earth Mettle.
Last year, Darvill starred as cowboy Curly McLain in the Young Vic production of Oklahoma! – a remounting of Daniel Fish’s revelatory Broadway revival of the classic musical. Following glowing reviews, Oklahoma! is now coming to the West End, playing at the Wyndham’s Theatre, with Darvill and several others (including Patrick Vaill, Anoushka Lucas and Liza Sadovy) reprising their roles.
Book Oklahoma! tickets on London Theatre.
Daniel Mays in Guys and Dolls
Sometimes Doctor Who goes very dark and very scary – and you know you’re in for a chiller when the episode title is “Night Terrors”. This spooky series six story (written by Mark Gatiss) saw the Doctor, Amy and Rory visit the home of eight-year-old George, who is afraid of pretty much everything. Daniel Mays played George’s father Alex in a tale full of emotion and plot twists – and, naturally, alien activity.
The versatile Mays has also notched up numerous other credits, such as the movies Vera Drake, Atonement, Made in Dagenham, Dad’s Army, and 1917. On TV, he was in the fantastical police drama Ashes to Ashes, played Ronnie Biggs in Mrs Biggs (opposite Sheridan Smith) and Samuel Pepys in The Great Fire, and Danny Waldron in the gripping Line of Duty. His theatre credits include the plays The Same Deep Water as Me, Hero, The Dumb Waiter, and the West End production of Mojo.
However, Mays is now taking on a very different challenge: the Bridge Theatre’s first ever musical. He’s starring as gambler Nathan Detroit in the iconic Guys and Dolls, alongside Marisha Wallace, Celinde Schoenmaker, Andrew Richardson and Cedric Neal, taking a chance on a new immersive production by Nicholas Hytner.
Book Guys and Dolls tickets on London Theatre.
Sophie Okonedo in Medea
“I’m the bloody queen, mate. Basically – I rule.” There’s no arguing with that. Sophie Okonedo wowed Doctor Who viewers with her kickass, gun-wielding, morally murky Queen Elizabeth X – aka Liz 10 – in series five adventure “The Beast Below”, and she also popped up again for the crucial episode “The Pandorica Opens”.
It’s no wonder Okonedo brought such regal flair to the role: among her numerous credits is an acclaimed Cleopatra (opposite Ralph Fiennes’s Antony) at the National Theatre. She’s also starred in A Raisin in the Sun and The Crucible on Broadway, and in The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? in the West End. On screen, her projects range from Hotel Rwanda, Death on the Nile and Catherine Called Birdy to The Hollow Crown, Flack, His Dark Materials and Slow Horses.
Now, she takes on another legendary female figure: Medea, in the Euripides play, at new West End theatre Soho Place. She’s joined by Ben Daniels and directed by Dominic Cooke. It’s the second venture for Cooke’s company Fictionhouse following his revival of Good in the West End – starring none other than the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.
Jenna Coleman in Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons
Doctor Who fans first met Jenna Coleman in the series seven episode “Asylum of the Daleks”, when she played Oswin Oswald – a genius-level stranded crew member who has been turned into a Dalek. She then popped up again as a Victorian governess in a Christmas special, and finally as a 21st-century version of the character, Clara. This mysterious figure became a companion to both the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors – played, respectively, by Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi.
Post-Who, Coleman starred in historical TV drama Victoria and crime thriller The Serpent. She also played Annie in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the Old Vic in 2019, acting alongside Sally Field, Bill Pullman and Colin Morgan. Now, she’s back in a London theatre, leading the West End production of Edinburgh Fringe hit Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons.
Sam Steiner’s bold romcom, also starring Poldark’s Aidan Turner, features a couple in a dystopian society where everyone is suddenly restricted to only speaking 140 words a day – a plot definitely worthy of a head-scratching Who episode. It’s playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre and Josie Rourke directs.
John Bishop in Mother Goose
The Liverpudlian comedian and actor made his likeable Doctor Who debut in 2021 as tradesman Dan Lewis, who is abducted by the dog-like alien Karvanista (as part of a plan to save humanity, it later transpires). Dan soon joins forces with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and her companion Yaz, aiding them during multiple series 13 episodes and the 2022 specials.
It was something of a departure for Bishop, who originally made his name in stand-up and then became a regular on TV panel shows. However, he had also demonstrated his acting chops in the likes of teen drama Skins, Jimmy McGovern’s anthology series Accused, thriller Fearless, and film comedy Funny Cow, before joining the Who universe.
Bishop recently entered the world of pantomime — and in some style. He plays Vic in the star-studded Mother Goose, alongside Ian McKellen in the titular panto dame role, and West End regulars like Anna-Jane Casey and Oscar Conlon-Morrey. The hugely popular production is at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre until the end of January, then heads off on tour.
Photo credit: Arthur Darvill in Oklahoma! (Photo courtesy of production)
Originally published on