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Address: 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, London WC2H 9LX
Air Conditioning: Yes
Current Owner: Ambassador Theatre Group, managed by Donmar Warehouse Projects Ltd.
Discounts, Day seats, Rush tickets & Lotteries
Box Office: +44 (0) 20 3282 3808
Stage Door: Not listed
Access Bookings: +44 (0) 20 3282 3808
More info on Donmar Access Tickets here.
Society of London Theatre also offers useful information for visitors with a disability or specific access need.
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden
Buses: 14, 19, 24, 29, 38, 176, N5, N20, N29, N38, N41, N279
Check out Transport for London’s excellent TFL Journey Planner
The Donmar Warehouse is a 251-seat, “not for profit” theatre in Covent Garden. With the feeling of a fringe theatre, the auditorium is housed within a nineteenth century warehouse constructed from London stock brick with metal framed windows. The auditorium is entered at upper level, approached by stairs with padded bench seating on two levels around a simple thrust stage.
The location was originally part of Combe & Co Ltd’s Woodyard Brewery, named for a woodyard believed to have occupied the site in the 17th Century.
By the 1870s the warehouse was used primarily as a vat room and hops warehouse for the local brewery in Covent Garden. The Woodyard Brewery closed in 1905 but the buildings remained. In the 1920s the warehouses were used as a film studio and then as the Covent Garden Market banana-ripening depot.
Theatre producer Donald Albery formed Donmar Productions in 1953. A commonly held belief in theatrical circles is that Donmar is a fusion of the first names of Albery and his close friend and business partner Margot Fonteyn (there is a blue plaque commemorating Fonteyn at the Covent Garden apartments where she lived nearby in Flat 9, 118 Long Acre). However, this is only a half-truth. The second part, the “mar” of Donmar actually come from Margaret Boys (Cicely Margaret Heather Boys), stepmother to Donald’s son Ian Albery. She read all of the plays before they were produced and gave Donald advice on them, which he often followed.
In 1961, Albery & Fonteyn bought the warehouse to use as a rehearsal space for the London Festival Ballet, which Albery’s son, Ian, a producer and theatre design consultant, converted into a private rehearsal studio.
Many new shows chose to rehearse here, including the Lionel Bart musical Blitz! which needed full scale scenery, including representations of Victoria Station, Petticoat Lane and Bank tube station, to be constructed for rehearsals. Ian Albery heard rumours that the adjacent banana warehouse was closing and secured the remaining 18 months lease of the banana warehouse in the old brewery vat room.
The Rehearsal Theatre was used for over 15 years by many West End producers, theatre and dance companies and even The Beatles, along with a few private performances, staged behind closed doors to escape censorship.
In 1977, the building was acquired by the Royal Shakespeare Company who speedily converted the rehearsal space into an intimate studio theatre, renaming it The Warehouse. The first show, opening on 18thJuly 1977, was Schweik in the Second World War which transferred from the Other Place in Stratford. So frantic was work to finish the theatre on opening night that the mains electricity was still disconnected thirty minutes before curtain up and concrete steps still drying as the audience arrived.
“The Warehouse” was as much a workshop as a performance space in its early years. Notable productions in the 1970s included Macbeth starring Judi Dench and Ian McKellen, a transfer from Stratford, with actors all sat in a large circle around the stage, watching the action, only coming into character when they crossed into the circle.
By 1980, almost every RSC actor was involved in an epic two-part production of Nicholas Nickleby at the Aldwych Theatre This left the RSC looking for scripts to produce with as few cast members as possible. This proved fortuitous for Willy Russell, who had submitted the two-hander Educating Rita which went on to become one of RSC’s biggest successes. The show starred Mark Kingston alongside Julie Walters, who would go on to reprise her role on the big screen opposite Michael Caine.
When RSC moved to the Barbican in 1982, Ian Albery and Nica Burns ran the theatre successfully, primarily as a producing house. Burns remained as artistic director until 1989.
In 1990, Roger Wingate (part of the family behind Curzon cinemas) undertook the acquisition of the theatre. As part of the commercial development of the adjoining Neal’s Yard, Wingate completely rebuilt and redesigned the venue as the Donmar Warehouse as we know it today and prior to its reopening in 1992, appointed Sam Mendes as the new Donmar Warehouse’s first Artistic Director. As a board member and theatrical producer, Roger Wingate remains closely involved with the Donmar to the present day.
Under Sam Mendes’ artistic direction, the Donmar became an independent producing house. His first production was Sondheim’s Assassins, followed by a series of classic revivals such as Hamlet (starring Alan Cummings) and Cabaret (Cummings and Jane Horrocks), The Threepenny Opera, Hedda Gabler, Nine, The Glass Menagerie, and Company.
In 1998, Mendes directed Nicole Kidman and Iain Glen in The Blue Room. It would become one of the most discussed productions in West End history, not least because of Kidman’s revealing performance – described by Daily Telegraph critic Charles Spencer as “pure theatrical Viagra”.
During his time with the Donmar, Mendes worked with a number of producers and directors including Matthew Warchus, and Michael Grandage who directed several key productions including Passion Play, Privates on Parade and Merrily We Roll Along. Sam Mendes has gone on to become one of the Country’s leading Theatre and Film directors, with Golden Globe and Bafta wins alongside an Oscar for his direction of American Beauty.
Michael Grandage would eventually succeed Mendes as Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse, assuming the role in 2002. One of the biggest shows of that year was Proof, which was in itself proof of the Donmar’s continued ability to attract Hollywood A-listers to the West End stage. Gwyneth Paltrow attracted the plaudits of critics and even though the production itself was met with more muted praise, Proof attracted Hollywood interest and became a feature film several years later with Paltrow reprising the role of Catherine. Significant productions followed including Hecuba starring Clare Higgins, and The Days of Wine and Roses with Anne-Marie Duff.
As well as his own direction, Grandage appointed Douglas Hodge and Jamie Lloyd as Associate Directors, with Rob Ashford succeeding Hodge in 2007 after Grandage and Ashford had worked together on one of the biggest commercial successes for the Donmar team, Guys and Dolls. The production, which opened in 2005 starring Ewan McGregor, Jane Krakowsi alongside Hodge and Jenna Russell, was staged in the Piccadilly Theatre and presented by “The Donmar Warehouse In The West End”. The inclusion of Hollywood stars McGregor and Krakowsi guaranteed the show a huge box office advance. Later in the run, Patrick Swayze joined the cast with the show eventually running for over two years.
In 2006, political drama Frost/Nixon opened to huge acclaim with Michael Sheen and Frank Langella in the dramatisation of an infamous political interview which probably did as much to topple the US president as the Watergate scandal.
Grandage and McGregor reunited in 2007 for Othello, with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role against McGregor’s Iago, this time back on the Donmar stage. With only 251 seats, tickets were in such demand that Grandage feared it could become a bad news story with tickets changing hands on ebay for £1200 a pair. In response, Grandage began to plan a year-long season in the much larger Wyndham’s Theatre under the banner of “Donmar West End.” The season began in September 2008, with Kenneth Branagh as Ivanov in a new version of Chekhov’s play by Tom Stoppard and continued with Derek Jacobi in Twelfth Night followed by Judi Dench in Madame de Sade and Jude Law as Hamlet.
The end of the decade saw three Donmar productions gain international acclaim as Red, Piaf and Creditors transferred to Broadway, Madrid and the Brooklyn Academy of Music respectively and then, in late 2010, the Donmar led UK celebrations to mark Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday, recognising his long association with the theatre. Events included a new production of Passion starring Elena Roger, Scarlett Strallen and David Thaxton, directed by Jamie Lloyd.
In February 2011, the Donmar, in collaboration with NT Live, broadcast its production of King Lear starring Derek Jacobi, to cinemas in 20 countries, facilitating an audience of over 30,000 people worldwide.
In January 2012, following Michael Grandage’s departure, Josie Rourke assumed the role of Artistic Director. The first production under Josie Rourke’s leadership was The Recruiting Officer, which she also directed. Other plays in Rourke’s inaugural season included Making Noise Quietly, directed by Peter Gill, Jack Thorne’s new version of Duerrenmatt’s The Physicists and Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come!, directed by Lyndsey Turner. Perhaps one of the most lauded productions of the season was Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Julius Caesar, which later transferred to St Anne’s Warehouse in New York, returning in Autumn 2016 as part of Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy in a temporary in-the-round 420 seat Theatre beside King’s Cross station.
In 2012/13 a season of plays ran at the Trafalgar Studios (now Trafalgar Theatre) including new versions of work by Arbuzov and Strindberg and a Jean Bruller novella. The annual season, staged to showcase work by graduates of the Donmar’s Resident Assistant Director Scheme, featured directors Alex Sims, Titas Halder and Simon Evans as part of the same scheme from which Rourke herself had graduated.
In late 2013, Tom Hiddleston starred as Coriolanus, praised by critics for his complex portrayal of the title character of Shakespeare’s epic Roman play. The show was also broadcast to NT Live audiences.
Diverse programming in the following years of Rourke’s tenure included the premier of James Graham’s Privacy, the superb revival of Cy Coleman’s City of Angels, and then in 2015, on the night of the UK General Election, history was made when Channel 4 broadcast another James Graham drama, The Vote set in a fictional London polling station, marking a national event, as it happened, live from the Donmar Warehouse. The show featured a cast including Mark Gatiss and Catherine Tate along with Judi Dench alongside her real-life daughter Finty Williams.
Subsequent productions included Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Faith Healer, and in Autumn 2016 the previously mentioned Phyllida Lloyd all-female Shakespeare Trilogy in the temporary Donmar King’s Cross.
Meanwhile in Covent Garden, shows continued in the Donmar itself, including Shaw’s Saint Joan with Gemma Arterton, Ibsen’s The Lady From The Sea (adapted by Elinor Cook) directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah and starring Nikki Amuka-Bird, and then in June 2018, Michael Longhurst was announced as fourth Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse. Longhurst’s previous credits included Constellations at the Royal Court and Amadeus at the National Theatre.
Michael Longhurst’s first season at the Donmar began on 20th June 2019 with David Grieg’s Europe, followed by the UK premiere of Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, [Blank] by Alice Birch, Mike Lew’s Teenage Dick and Caryl Churchill’s Far Away.
Longhurst has been named as one of the 1,000 most influential Londoners by the Evening Standard) and continues a diverse artistic policy that nurtures new writing, contemporary re-imaginings of European classics, Anglo/America dramas and intimate musical theatre. The venue presents at least six productions each year and tours one in-house production around the UK.
The Donmar Warehouse has received many of Theatre’s highest accolades including Olivier Awards, Critic’s Circle Awards, Evening Standard Awards, plus Tony Awards for its Broadway productions. The Donmar thrives on its ability to attract the finest actors and Hollywood stars to appear in a venue so small that its 251 seats often sell out moments after they are released, but is never reliant upon celebrity casting. The Donmar works to develop new artists and future audiences through its renowned training programmes and work with schools and communities, and despite its diminutive size, the Donmar stands tall amongst many larger West End Theatres.
Disclaimer: We take care to provide accurate information. Records prior to internet age can be difficult to verify so we only list productions back as far as the year 2000, however we hold some records prior to this date offline. If you would like more information, or are aware of any errors, please contact us here. “One night only” productions and private theatre hires are not listed.
Arthur Lloyd’s Theatre Website offers an encyclopaedic insight into the history of the West End’s theatres.
Theatricalia is a database of past & future theatre productions.
Thisistheatre also offers interesting insights into the history of London’s theatres.
The Theatres Trust offers information and support for our nation’s theatres.