With new boss Michael Grandage focusing on solid core values—new writing, international theatre—the chic Covent Garden venue is becoming a counter-weight to the top-heavy West End roster of celebrities.
With next year’s schedule just announced, the big news is a new play from great British hope Charlotte Jones, and Tom Stoppard’s new version of Luigi Pirandello’s rarely-performed classic, Henry IV.
The Donmar’s new year effectively begins on Feb. 12, 2004, when Patrick Marber’s Strindberg follow-up, After Miss Julie, makes way for Steve Waters’ World Music. Waters—whose After The Gods drew mixed reviews at London’s Hampstead Theatre last year—tells the story of the troubled and bloody relationship between Europe and Africa, and how it rips apart the lives and loves of those caught in the flames. The play has already been seen at the Sheffield Crucible, and original cast members Nikki Amuka-Bird, Sebastian Harcombe and Sara Powell travel south with it.
Thirty-something Charlotte Jones is one of Britain’s busiest writers, having penned the new Donmar play Dark alongside the book for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s forthcoming musical The Woman In White. But the successful National Theatre and West End runs for her breakthrough effort Humble Boy have confirmed her as a talent to watch, with some ebullient critics even comparing her to the young Alan Ayckbourn.
Dark, previewing from March 18, 2004, continues Humble Boy’s theme of characters who are isolated, despite living with others. There’s John, who lives with his mother and is helping the police; Brian and Janet, whose son only talks to strangers; and Barnaby and Louisa, who cannot name their new baby. A crisis arises when the lights go out. Anna Mackmin directs and regular Matthew Bourne collaborator Lez Brotherston designs, with no casting yet known. Tom Stoppard’s mischievous views of old masterpieces have resulted in stage and screen hits from Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead to the giddy Romeo and Juliet parallels of “Shakespeare In Love.” The Donmar premieres his new version of Henry IV from Nov. 19, 2004. Nothing to do with the better-known Shakespeare, Pirandello’s Henry is an Italian nobleman who has fallen from a horse and now believes that he is a medieval German Emperor.
Theatre-watchers might be tickled to note that the production stars Ian McDiarmid (known to film fans for his role as another Emperor, in the “Star Wars” series) in his first role since stepping down as joint artistic director of the Almeida Theatre—in many ways the Donmar’s direct rival. Grandage directs.
For Christmas, the Donmar does decadence with a revival of the Robert Wright-George Forrest musical Grand Hotel. A five-time Tony Award winner on Broadway in 1989 (where it ran for over 1,000 performances), and seen in the West End in 1992, it’s set in a plush 1920’s Berlin hotel. Baron von Geigern is after the dancer Grusinskaya. He only wants her for her pearls, but ends up with more than he bargained for.
Previewing from Nov. 19, 2004, this Grandage-directed production features additional music and lyrics by Maury Yeston. Designed by Christopher Oram, it will run until Feb. 12, 2005.
Public booking for World Music opens on Nov. 24.