West End residency for newly secured Donmar

Published April 17, 2008

In a press conference this morning, Michael Grandage, Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director for the past five years, spelled out his commitment to the future of the venue by revealing exciting plans for the next few years.

Jude Law as Hamlet directed by Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi in Twelfth Night, and writers Tom Stoppard and David Grieg feature in forthcoming programming which covers both the Donmar Warehouse and a new residency of Donmar productions at the Wyndham’s theatre from September 2008. Speaking about the plans, Grandage said he wanted to “commit massively to taking the Donmar to its next stage of development” and has no wish to pursue freelance work.

Furthermore, in a move which secures the long-term future of the Donmar, the theatre has purchased the 125-year lease of the Earlham Street building, making this the first time in the theatre’s history that it has owned its premises. The Donmar takes sole possession following the end of ATG’s lease in nine years time.

Grandage’s plans commence with the next season at the Donmar, following the musical Parade, which opens on 24 September, and the forthcoming production of Othello, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ewan McGregor. In revealing the line-up, Grandage said the programming was about “consolidating and pushing the boundaries” of what has already been achieved in his tenure to date. “I am attracted not only to rare plays but to plays that offer challenges,” he said.

Arthur Miller’s The Man Who Had All The Luck plays from 28 February-5 April 2008, directed by Sean Holmes (The Entertainer at the Old Vic) in his Donmar directorial debut. Miller’s fable centres on David Beeves, whose life can’t get any better. As the lives of those around him begin to crumble, he questions his own destiny and struggles to change his fate. Beeves will be played by emerging young actor Andrew Buchan – of whom Grandage joked “he is that man who had all the luck” – whose credits include Posh at the Royal Court and the political drama series Party Animals on television. The production will tour to Salford and Truro following the Donmar run, in keeping with the theatre’s annual touring programme which this year featured Kiss Of The Spider Woman.

Following the Miller play, with dates still to be confirmed, will be: Strindberg’s 1890 work Creditors, in a new version by playwright and actor David Grieg (My Boy Jack); Life Is A Dream, by 16th century Spanish playwright Pedro Calderon de la Barca; and TS Eliot’s 1939 play The Family Reunion. Casting and directing credits are yet to be announced.

From September 2008 theatregoers can enjoy Donmar productions at both the Earlham Street theatre itself and in the West End, where Grandage has secured a one-year residency at Cameron Mackintosh’s Wyndham’s theatre. The initiative comes from Grandage’s desire to expand the Donmar’s work beyond the intimate venue – as he did with the Donmar production of Guys And Dolls that ran at the Piccadilly from 2005 to 2007 – to make productions accessible to more people than the 280-seat theatre allows, and to take on bigger projects. Grandage said it is “an opportunity to expand the commitment to taking this work to as wide a public as possible and bring serious drama to the centre of the West End”.

The new four-production West End season will attempt to retain the values and feel of a Donmar production, including the ticket prices. A top price ticket to the Wyndham’s during the Donmar tenure will cost £32.50, with over 130 seats available at £10. Accessibility through ticket prices, Grandage said, was “a key part of why we would do it”.

The quartet of productions at the Wyndham’s kicks off with Chekhov’s Ivanov, in a new version by Tom Stoppard (Rock ‘N’ Roll), which runs from 12 September-29 November 2008. Grandage directs Kenneth Branagh in the title role, who he credits as being “a real inspiration” in the development of the season. Branagh, known for his many high profile roles in films including Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, has previously collaborated with Grandage on Richard III at the Sheffield Crucible.

Ivanov is followed by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (5 December 2008-7 March 2009), in which Grandage directs Derek Jacobi as Malvolio. The partnership between the two has included Don Carlos, directed by Grandage at the Sheffield Crucible and the West End, and A Voyage Round My Father, directed by Thea Sharrock at the Donmar last year, subsequently transferring to the Wyndham’s.

Grandage also directs the third production in the season, Madame De Sade, by Japanese playwright Yukio Mishima, a play which Grandage said would be done “on as big a scale a possible”.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with Branagh directing Jude Law in the title role, rounds off the season in style, running from 29 May-22 August 2009. Grandage said the Donmar West End season was “the ideal showcase” for Branagh and Law to develop this project. Law’s previous stage work includes Dr Faustus and ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore at the Young Vic and Les Parents Terrible at the National. His extensive film credits include The Holiday, Closer, The Talented My Ripley, Road To Perdition and Sleuth, directed by Branagh. As a director, Branagh’s theatre credits include The Play What I Wrote, Uncle Vanya and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Grandage said he thought Law would “bring something so open and raw to the role”.

The Donmar’s reach is expanding beyond even the West End, with Guys And Dolls transferring to Melbourne, Australia, in March 2008. Grandage’s Assistant Director Jamie Lloyd directs a cast including Lisa McCune, Marina Prior, Ian Stenlake, Garry McDonald and Shane Jacobsen. Grandage said plans for a Broadway transfer are currently on hold.

CB