Sam Mendes leaves the Donmar on Nov. 30, handing over the reins to Michael Grandage, an event that will conclude a decade of running a small (some 250-seat) but influential theatre in the heart of the West End.
It's easy, with a success story, to assume that the success was inevitable, but when Mendes arrived at the Donmar it was (and continued to be, for most of his ten years) a theatre that had to constantly fight for its financial life.
However good the box office, the theatre has always needed subsidy and sponsorship because the number of seats available simply can't generate enough revenue to cover modern production and marketing costs of first-class staging of plays and musicals.
It is the happy mix of plays and musicals that is perhaps Mendes' most defining characteristic as artistic director, from his early hit with Sondheim's Assassins to his more recent and long-lasting transatlantic hit Cabaret, via straight plays like The Blue Room starring Nicole Kidman and Iain Glen.
Although he moves on from the Donmar to other Hollywood projects, Mendes has made it clear that he'll be back in the West End before long - and may even be looking for another building to turn into a theatre.
To mark the extraordinary story of Sam Mendes' decade at the Donmar Warehouse, Matt Wolf has written a book "Stepping Into Freedom," published by Nick Hern Books on Oct. 10, which will make absorbing reading for those who have enjoyed past productions at the Donmar - or want some hints as to how to create their own theatrical powerhouse.
For more information on Stepping Into Freedom by Matt Wolf click here for Nick Hern Books.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow