Josie Rourke, the incoming Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse, is to kick off her tenure at the venue by directing George Farquhar’s Restoration comedy The Recruiting Officer from 9 February to 14 April.
The production, a story of sex, money and the military, indicates Rourke’s desire to put her own stamp on the venue, being the first time a play from that era – 1706 – has been seen on the stage of the renowned Covent Garden venue.
It will be followed by Robert Holman’s 1987 war triptych Making Noise Quietly (19 April to 26 May) directed by Peter Gill, before Rourke directs a revival of The Physicists (31 May to 21 July), the 1962 satirical masterpiece of Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt, in a new version by Jack Thorne.
Announcing the season, Rourke commented: “The variety of this work, from a classic comedy to a contemporary lyrical British drama, through to a European rediscovery in a version by one of our most exciting young playwrights, both offers something new and celebrates what is rightly loved about this extraordinary theatre space.”
The season bears the mark of Rourke’s experience after spending the past five years as Artistic Director of the Bush theatre. Thorne has had several plays staged at the Bush, including Two Cigarettes, When You Cure Me and 2nd May 1997, while Gill’s work for the venue includes 2010 play The Aliens. Both collaborated with Rourke on Sixty-Six Books, a vast project overseen by Rourke to inaugurate the venue’s new home last month.
Rourke also brings to the Donmar two associates who worked alongside her at the Bush: new Associate Artist Anthony Weigh, whose plays 2,000 Feet Away and Like A Fishbone premiered at the Shepherd’s Bush venue with Rourke directing; and fast-rising composer Michael Bruce, who composed the score for The Great British Country Fete at the Bush in 2010 and Rourke’s production of Much Ado About Nothing in the West End this summer. Bruce will be Composer-in-Residence at the Donmar, creating the music for all Rourke’s productions, beginning with The Recruiting Officer and The Physicists.
Rourke’s arrival at the Donmar Warehouse is something of a homecoming, having started her career as a trainee on the venue’s Resident Assistant Director scheme in 2000, working with previous Artistic Directors Sam Mendes and Michael Grandage. Rourke went on to work at Sheffield Theatres and the Royal Court before joining the Bush theatre in 2007. She has also directed productions for the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. On being appointed Grandage’s successor back in March, Rourke commented: “Nothing could make me more proud than to return to the place where I began.”
Grandage opens his final production, Richard II, on 1 December. He leaves the venue after a hugely successful decade which has seen numerous West End and Broadway transfers, a major season in the West End at Donmar prices and the initiation of the Donmar Trafalgar scheme to showcase the work of graduates of the Resident Assistant Director programme.
Richard II, which stars Eddie Redmayne and Andrew Buchan, runs to 4 February.