Our History

THE DONMAR WAREHOUSE  is a 251-seat, not-for-profit theatre in Covent Garden,  led by Artistic Director Tim Sheader and Executive Director Henny Finch.

The Donmar is the home of legendary performance, experienced up close.

In our converted Covent Garden warehouse, we bring together audiences – never more than four rows away from an actor – to experience world class artists and rising stars create thrilling, unmissable theatre.

From a nineteenth century hop warehouse to today’s award-winning theatre, our history is as exciting and varied as the work we present  on our stage. Here are some highlights:


1690s Thomas Neal MP establishes the Seven Dials area, hoping it will become as popular with well-off residents as the nearby Piazza. Instead Seven Dials becomes one of the most notorious slums in London. 1870s Seven Dials is taken over by workshops and breweries. What will become the Donmar is a vat room and hop warehouse for the local brewery in Covent Garden. 1920s The warehouse is used as a silent film studio, and then the Covent Garden Market banana ripening-depot. 1960s Donald Albery forms Donmar Productions (amalgamating his first name and his wife’s second name – Margaret) and purchases what will become the Donmar Warehouse. During this time, the Donmar plays host to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and  the London Festival Ballet. 1970s and 1980s The Donmar becomes the home for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s studio productions before it is taken under the management of Ian Albery and Nica Burns. It becomes the West End home for Britain’s most innovative touring companies, including Cheek by Jowl, plus stand-up comedy and cabaret.


1990s In 1989, Roger Wingate’s ACT purchases the theatre and begins a major renovation. In 1990 Sam Mendes is invited to take up residency as Artistic Director and opens the refurbished theatre in 1992 with the UK premiere of Sondheim’s Assassins. Other productions under his direction included Cabaret, Company, Uncle Vanya, Twelfth Night and The Blue Room with Nicole Kidman. Other Directors working at the Donmar around this time include Matthew Warchus, Katie Mitchell, David Leveaux and Michael Grandage. ATG takes over from Roger Wingate and ACT as the landlord of the Donmar in 1999. 2000s Michael Grandage succeeds Sam Mendes as Artistic Director in 2002. Under his tenure, the Donmar begins a national touring programme to reach as many people as possible across the UK. Productions under Grandage’s tenure include Frost/ Nixon, Piaf, and a production of King Lear that marks the first time NT Live has broadcast from  a venue other than the National Theatre. Other productions include Mary Stuart with Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer, Proof with Gwyneth Paltrow, Ian Mckellen in The Cut and Eddie Redmayne and Alfred Molina in Red.

2010s In 2011, the Donmar purchases its Dryden Street home, including a rehearsal space,  offices and education studio. In 2012 Josie Rourke and Kate Pakenham are appointed as the first all-female leadership team of a major London theatre. They create a programme that sees the Donmar reach new audiences in the UK and overseas, especially New York, alongside innovative ticket access schemes such as Barclays Front Row and YOUNG+FREE. A number of hit productions are broadcast across the world with NT Live, including Coriolanus with Tom Hiddleston, Les Liaisons Dangereuses with Janet McTeer and Dominic West, and Saint Joan with Gemma Arterton. This bold programming continues with Privacy, The Vote – broadcast live on More4 on the night of the 2015 election – and the all-female Shakespeare Trilogy staged at Donmar King’s Cross.

Michael Longhurst takes over as Artistic Director in March 2019, joined by Executive Director Henny Finch. During their tenure, the theatre is nominated for 19 Olivier Awards with the programme including new plays by writers such as Lucy Kirkwood, Jack Thorne, Lynn Nottage, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Alice Birch, with classics such as Kit Harington in Henry V and Macbeth with David Tennant and Cush Jumbo, and Best New Musical Olivier nominees The Band’s Visit and Next to Normal (transferring to the West End in June 2024). During the pandemic, the Donmar produces Blindness with Juliet Stevenson which toured the world during 2020, and Michael Longhurst’s sell-out production of Constellations, with four different casts, which broke box office records at the Vaudeville Theatre. In 2021, Michael and Henny led a major capital refurbishment of the theatre, to bring it up to date in terms of accessibility, sustainability and audience experience.


Tim Sheader became the new Artistic Director of the Donmar in March 2024, becoming  joint CEO alongside Henny Finch.