A LETTER FROM LONDON: Recommended London Theatres; Books Worthy of the Morley Prize

By Ruth Leon
12 Feb 2013

The Donmar Warehouse

Sam Mendes, he of "American Beauty" fame, was the first artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse. Play by play, he and his team built an exemplary reputation for risk-taking and impeccable taste, choosing plays and actors such as Simon Russell Beale and Nicole Kidman, which could be shoe-horned into his awkward thrust playing area where the audience is practically part of the action and you can't put your coat next to your seat for fear that an entering or exiting actor will trip on it. Work in the Donmar has immediacy to it, whether it's a Spanish Golden Age melodrama or a Sondheim musical.

The equally brilliant Michael Grandage, whose productions of Red and Hamlet with Jude Law went on to Broadway with great success, succeeded Mendes as artistic director. Grandage's replacement is the extraordinary Josie Rourke, whose first full season this is. She started with a bang with The Recruiting Officer and hasn't put a foot wrong yet. Her first productions have included an all female production of Shakespeare's most testosterone-fueled history, Julius Caesar and Racine's Bérénice.

The main problem at the Donmar, if you're a visitor without much chance to book in advance, is that it's a small place with very few seats, all of which tend to be sold out all the time. Don't despair, a new deal was recently announced, almost too good to be true, which allows you to pick up a ticket to the Donmar's productions for a mere £10. True, you have to get yourself (or a helpful friend) to the box office by 10 AM on Monday morning but, if you do, the box office is selling 300 front-row stalls and circle, the best seats in the admittedly small house, for three weeks hence, at just £10. Given the quality of the plays and the actors performing them, this is worth your time on any Monday. It is just about possible to do this online at donmarwarehouse.com/barclaysfrontrow, but better in person.