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Donkey Heart

Published 9 January 2015

What’s it all about?

Inspired by the Russian roots of sibling writer/director duo Moses and Nina Raine, this witty and moving drama charts the story of a family living in a cramped Moscow flat. With grandparents, girlfriends, boyfriends and even PAs to accommodate, the bijoux home becomes a hive of activity where stories of the past are told, arguments brew and privacy is impossible to achieve. So, when one member of the family has a secret to hide, it’s only a matter of time before the truth will out.

Who’s in it?

Donkey Heart packs an unusually large cast of nine into the intimate confines of the Trafalgar Studio 2. Among them are James Musgrave, who gives a compelling performance as the volatile Petya, Lisa Diveney as a gutsy and intelligent Sasha, Patrick Godfrey’s frail Alexander, who provides a soothing presence in a whirlwind of hysteria, and Alex Large, whose performance brings comedy as the family’s English guest, constantly playing the third wheel and achieving laugh-out-loud amounts of awkwardness during many uncomfortable family situations.

Extra credit should also be given to Pierre Atri, the young performer playing Kolya for this performance, who continually provokes smiles with his numerous tantrums, indoor modes of transport and evolving ‘facial hair’.

What should I look out for?

The clever way in which the language barrier between the native speakers and their English lodger is conveyed despite only a tiny amount of Russian being spoken.

In a nutshell?

Moses and Nina Raine prove a potent brother-sister duo with this touching and hilarious Moscow-set drama that questions whether Russia will ever escape its past?

What’s being said on Twitter?

@artifartblast Entranced by beautiful Chekhovian @DonkeyHeart @TrafStudios. Nina directs Moses’ play, pitch-perfect family dynamics. #ContempoRaineOus

@calvinhunter75 V much enjoyed #DonkeyHeart tonight. Some good writing and some really lovely performances.

Will I like it?

This Old Red Lion transfer gets the theatrical year off to an excellent start. With exceptional performances, a tale that makes you laugh and weep in equal measure and a venue that suits the drama perfectly, it’s less of a case of will you like it and more a case of when are you free to go and see it?

Donkey Heart is playing at the Trafalgar Studio 2 until 31 January. You can book tickets through our annual discount ticket promotion Get Into London Theatre.


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We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

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