Nestled in the heart of the West End, the Donmar Warehouse is in Covent Garden. Located on Earlham Street, the Donmar Warehouse is a thrust stage, which means that actors perform to audiences on three sides. The Donmar is close to West End theatres including the Cambridge Theatre, the Palace Theatre and the Phoenix Theatre. Currently, the Donmar Warehouse is led by artistic director Michael Longhurst.
The Donmar Warehouse opened on 18 July 1977. But the space has not always been used as a theatre. Before the Donmar Warehouse opened, the space was used as a banana-ripening depot for Covent Garden market traders. In the mid-twentieth century, its theatrical capabilities began to be utilised, with Ian Albery converting the warehouse into a private rehearsal studio. Then, in 1977, the Royal Shakespeare Company acquired the space as a theatre, and the Donmar Warehouse was born.
Howard Davies’ Schweik in the Second World War was the first show staged at the Donmar Warehouse, but the theatre quickly became a testing ground for Royal Shakespeare Company shows and Stratford-upon-Avon transfers. After half a decade of RSC ownership, Nica Burns took over as artistic director from 1983 to 1989.
The Donmar Warehouse became an independent producing house in 1992, meaning they develop their productions in-house, rather than external companies controlling the shows. Sam Mendes took over as artistic director from 1992, staying in the role for a decade. Under Mendes, notable shows include Cabaret in 1993, starring Alan Cumming and Jane Horrocks, as well as revivals of The Glass Menagerie, Endgame and Into the Woods. Michael Grandage then took over as the Donmar’s artistic director in 2002; his first London theatre tenure.
Although the Donmar Warehouse is in the West End area of London, it's considered an off-West End playhouse. But, the Donmar has put on shows in the West End. During Michael Grandage's leadership as artistic director, he revitalised the theatre's West End presence, holding a year-long repertory season at the Wyndham’s Theatre.
Recent shows include City of Angels in 2014, directed by Josie Rourke. City of Angels, which eventually received its West End revival at the Garrick Theatre in 2020. Josie Rourke's tenure as artistic director ended with a starry revival of Sweet Charity.
An all-female trilogy of male-heavy Shakespeare plays was also produced by the Donmar Warehouse, staged in an temporary, in-the-round theatre.
Michael Longhurst currently serves as artistic director. His first season began in June 2019, but is currently halted as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, the Donmar Warehouse begun a partnership with Wessex Grove, a UK based production company. The companies will develop new shows and take the theatre’s work to a wider audience.
What is seating like at the Donmar Warehouse?
The Donmar Warehouse seats 251 people across two levels - Stalls and Circle.
The Donmar Warehouse auditorium is on an upper level, and is approached by stairs. The Donmar is wheelchair accessible, with three wheelchair spaces in the auditorium.
In the stalls, seating is on one level, with side seats on the rake. As there are few rows on each side, there is good visibility of the stage in all stall seats.
The circle seats offer good visibility also, with a maximum of three rows of seating. There is a safety rail, but this does not impede on viewing.