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Donmar Warehouse announces further programming for 2022

WE. BLACK WOMEN

head of the UK première in April of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Marys Seacole, directed by Nadia Latif, Artistic Director Michael Longhurst and Executive Director Henny Finch today announce further programming for the Donmar Warehouse’s 2022 season.

  • The European premières of Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 and David Yazbek and Itamar Moses’ The Band’s Visit
  • The UK première of Dawn King’s The Trials – a Donmar LOCAL production
  • A first-time co-production with Tara Theatre with Silence
  • A free exhibition – WE. BLACK WOMEN. curated by Donmar Associate Artist Joan Iyiola, running alongside Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Marys Seacole

Michael Longhurst, Donmar Artistic Director commented “I am thrilled to be announcing the European premieres of two major Broadway shows, in brand new productions at the Donmar:  A Doll’s House, Part 2, an audacious sequel from the dazzling mind of Lucas Hnath starring Noma Dumezweni returning to the London stage; and the deeply moving, awards-sweeping musical The Band’s Visit by David Yazbek and Itamar Moses.

In between, the Donmar breaks new ground platforming the next generation of young performers opposite the current generation’s leading actors in Dawn King’s The Trials, a courtroom drama unlike any other; deepening our investigation into the climate crisis and our sustainability practices.  And we are proud to be co-producing with Tara Theatre a vital new commission Silence to mark the 75th anniversary of Partition in India, inspired by extraordinary testimony, acknowledging events that need to be spoken of in Britain.

In a deeply conflicted world, this season celebrates the power of connection to change and heal. Familial, generational, religious, historic – the divisions that sit under these works hold up our need to find and celebrate our shared humanity.

Finally, Donmar Associate artist Joan Iyiola has curated an exhibition WE. BLACK WOMEN., with leading actresses celebrating their unsung heroes, which will run alongside Marys Seacole. It is such a joy to see our theatre full again, with audiences enjoying our recently refurbished spaces. Please do join us for more important stories, thrillingly told.

10 June – 6 August: James Macdonald directs Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 which sees Noma Dumezweni return to the London stage for the first time since her Olivier Award winning performance in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

12 – 27 August: The UK première of Dawn King’s The Trials – directed by Natalie Abrahami, in a Donmar LOCAL production, a timely piece in response to the climate crisis, and the impact on the next generation. Young performers star alongside leading actors (casting to be announced)

1 – 17 September: In a first-time collaboration with Tara Theatre the Donmar will stage Silence, adapted from Kavita Puri’s Partition Voices: Untold British Stories, marking 75 years since the Partition of India, examining the legacy this brutal moment in history leaves us with today.

Abdul Shayek, Artistic Director Tara Theatre added “As Britain holds up a mirror to its colonial history that has shaped our present day reality, many of us are asking questions of our past and who we are. 2022 provides us with the last big milestone before we lose the survivors and their living memory, giving us the chance to understand the human cost of what occurred in 1947, retelling the stories of those who survived Partition and came to the UK. As a group of storytellers we will try to capture the unbiased documentation of these stories in Kavita’s book and the very real need to recognise that this is a shared history, this is our shared history, a British story regardless of the colour of your skin.”

24 September – 3 December: European premiere of David Yazbek and Itamar Moses’ multi-Tony award-winning The Band’s Visit, directed by Donmar Artistic Director Michael Longhurst, his next musical following his Broadway-transferring smash hit Caroline, or Change.

In addition, Donmar today announces a free exhibition from 6 May 2022 in its foyer spaces. WE. BLACK WOMEN. is an exhibition curated by Donmar Associate Artist Joan Iyiola that shifts our perspective on British history by putting the collective experiences of Black women at the centre of the conversation. Featuring Sheila Atim, Joyclen Buffong, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Noma Dumezweni, Dr Christine Ekechi, Decima Francis MBE, Akua Gyamfi, Naomie Harris, Afua Hirsch, Joan Iyiola, Anaya Kamara, Faith Locken, June Nicol-Dundas, Pippa Bennett-Warner and Susan Wokoma.

The Donmar continues to expand its work in the community through Donmar LOCAL, with the launch of LOCAL Residencies, working in partnership with local community organisations to platform the important stories of young people in Camden and Westminster. The first community partners are Element, an organisation which supports care leavers in Westminster, and Holborn Community Association, who were in residence at the Donmar during the pandemic.

The Donmar’s commitment to talent development also widens with CATALYST, the Donmar’s flagship talent development programme, expanding to include a Young Assistants Programme. Industry leading creatives will mentor paid 16-18 year old placements on The Trialsworking across set and costume design, sound design, lighting design, directing and stage management. This work is generously supported by The Backstage Trust and marks the beginning of a partnership with Royal Central School of Speech and Drama to support the development of young talent and offer pathways to higher education.

The Donmar is currently engaging with over 1000 young Londoners in a programme of youth activism and performance making, as part of the process to find 12 young actors who will make their stage debut at the theatre in The Trials,alongside leading actors.

As part of the Donmar’s ongoing commitment to accessibility, over 1000 free tickets will be available for audiences aged under 26 as part of the Donmar’s YOUNG+FREE scheme, generously supported by IHS Markit.

Every production will have a BSL performance, alongside its captioned and audio described performance offer.

Season Supporter: Charles Holloway.

The season is presented in partnership with Wessex Grove.

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Playwright, Elinor Cook interview: “If the dudes are pitching great plays — then those of us who aren’t the white men need go in there and nail those commissions.”

Elinor Cook is not some no-frills interviewee. My time with the feisty young playwright involved her batting my base level questions politely, while occasionally pouring herself a glass of water.

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Elinor Cook

Not having arrived today with any sort of agenda, we simply had a chat. She tells me that yesterday she had an ‘impromptu Mexican dinner’ with the Lady From The Sea cast and Kwame Kwei-Armah to celebrate his recent appointment as Artistic Director of the Young Vic. ‘FYI’ she had pan-seared tuna tacos and a beer… And a margarita. “Two drinks — Mexican appropriate,” she says, laughing.

Her new version of The Lady From The Sea, directed by Kwei-Armah opens at the Donmar tonight. Ibsen’s play encompasses those familiar Ibsen themes: obligation, accountability, the role of women and how the past impinges on the future. How has she found adapting such a classic text? “I’ve found it a complete joy,” says Cook. “I’ve loved it and I definitely want to do more of this sort of thing because there is something about having the map in place. It’s gone through a couple of permutations in terms of the setting of it. The first draft was all set contemporary, in time of the second draft we had a conversation and decided it would be more helpful to make it post-colonial and that mirroring Ellida’s own restless and need to be independent herself.”

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The Lady From The Sea at The Donmar Warehouse

Cook is revelling the opportunity to work with the new Artistic Director of the Young Vic. “He has this ability to facilitate an incredibly open rehearsal room,” she says, smiling. “He’s able to make people trust him and each other. There’s a beautiful lightness and airiness with the work and with what is happening on stage and it’s all there because of his attention to detail. He’s really big on psychology and emotion and my God you can really see that. It’s just extraordinary. He’s incredibly generous and honest.”

Every Playwright has a unique approach to writing. Where does she work best? “I work in the library – I go to the Wellcome Collection Library, which I’d highly recommend as a place to work,” she says. “I try and do a full work day because I need the structure and just to have other people around. It’s nice to feel that you are part of something.”

We talk about the lack of female writers on our biggest stages. “You can’t ignore that conversation because everyone’s having it”, she shrugs when I suggest that the scenario is not exactly ideal. “It does anger me, but I’m reluctant to go: ‘The reason it’s taken me 10 years is because I am a woman.’ However, I am conscious of the fact that I am white, privileged and straight. I think it’s more about how you get into those rooms in the first place.”

Not, she hastens to add, that she’s had it easy. “As someone who’s had every opportunity, but struggled so much with confidence for a long time and that feeling that I didn’t know how to hold my own in the room the way my male counterparts did. I wrestled with the feeling that at any second I’d be chucked out because I had nothing of interest to say.”

How can we ensure a real shift toward gender equality? “It starts before the theatres are making those decisions,” she says.

“If the dudes are pitching great plays — then those of us who aren’t the white men need to make sure that we are enabled to go in there and nail those commissions. There are so many reasons why I would struggle to pitch something and if I find it hard then how hard would those who hadn’t had those privileges and opportunities to get on?”

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Out of Love – Paines Plough

Does she feel obliged to write about politics, I ask. “The whole gesture of playwriting is political in itself,” she states. “With a play like Out of Love, I wanted to write something very human, getting to the complexity of the relationship between two women. I wanted to excavate something that I hoped would touch people on a human level. If you succeed with something like that then you are asking the audience for their imagination and empathy. In this increasingly fractured world, where the divisions are widening, if we are not able to imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes then we are kind of doomed.”

She continues: “A political play doesn’t have to be one set in the House of Commons, it can be perceived to be a smaller beast. My play Image of An Unknown Woman is my most overtly political play because it directly critiques a repressive regime and questions democracy. But I’d argue that Pilgrims or Out of Love, which are smaller in scale are political in a different way.”

Cook talks of the lucky opportunities that have come her way and in particular the pace at which she has progressed. “There’s something about being the age I am now and my career taking off that feels really right. I’m not sure I would have been prepared for the opportunities had I been younger… I was so crippled with a lack of self-confidence and self-consciousness… It was challenging.”

And now, following a storming debut at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Out of Love is on tour as part of Paines Plough’s pop-up space, the Roundabout. The play is a comic exploration of female friendship spanning 30 years. What are the challenges of writing for such a unique performance space? “When you are writing for Roundabout the work has to have a universality to it – it has to have something that is going to resonate in Poole and in Stoke and in Darlington or Edinburgh,” she says. “There is something about that space; being in the round and with no props. It demands a particular kind of playwriting, it has to be very front-footed. It has to be very clear about what it is from very early on.”

She looks to Tamara Harvey, Amelia Sears and Charlotte Gwinner, particularly at the start of her career, for inspiration. “I’ve had really great relationships with directors. The first skill of a director if they read a draft and are able to help you as the writer really get to the nub of what you have to say.”

Today, she is honest about her commitments beyond The Lady From The Sea. “I’m at that glorious stage where I don’t know what the next project is,” she says, with a glint in her eye.

“I am looking forward to being able to see where my brain takes me and where the world takes me. I’d love to do more adapting and having written two very intimate plays with Pilgrims and Out Of Love, I’d love to go back to a bigger Image Of An Unknown Young Woman size cast and with international heft. But what that actually is I don’t know and that’s really exciting!”

The Lady From The Sea is at the Donmar, London, until 2 December. Box office: 0844 871 7624.

Out Of Love is currently on a UK Tour as part of Paines Plough’s pop-up theatre Roundabout.