Donmar Warehouse – Aristocrats

Are the props essential or should it be left to imagination?

I have seen plays, both contemporary and classic, with minimal stage props and I can’t say I felt increased craving for them. But in a play where a 5 minute scene evolves around 2 characters playing cricket and the actors are not even holding bats, though are acting as if they are, I really felt craving for bats. It did not feel natural and looked a bit comic for me, clearly my imagination did not help.



Donmar Warehouse is in the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) covered in my Lyceum Theatre post.

Theatrical producer Donald Albery formed Donmar Productions around 1953, the name derived from the first three letters of his and his spouse’s names (Margaret). In 1962, he bought the warehouse at the heart of Covent Garden that used to serve as a local brewery warehouse in its early days and later as a film studio and a banana-ripening depot. The warehouse was used by his son, Ian Albery, as a private rehearsal studio. In 1977, the Royal Shakespeare Company acquired it as a theatre and renamed it the Warehouse. The Warehouse was an RSC workshop as much as a showcase. In 1990, Roger Wingate acquired the Warehouse and completely rebuilt and re-equipped it in the form it is known today. ATG bought the theatre from Associated Capital Theatres in 2000. Today Donmar is known as a principal independent producing theatre.



The story evolves at the decaying O’Donnell family mansion in Donegal, Ireland in the 1970s. The family gathered together to celebrate the wedding of the youngest sister, Claire. Claire lives in this mansion with her eldest sister, Judith, their bedridden father and an odd uncle George, who does not speak. Visiting for this special occasion are the other two O’Donnell siblings, Casimir and Alice with her husband. Casimir is married to Helga and lives in Germany; no one from his family has ever met Helga and they doubt she exists. Casimir moved to Germany after his failed career as a lawyer. He was supposed to carry on the family tradition and become a district judge, like his father, but this plan failed. Alice lives in a tiny flat in London with her husband Eamon, who is the grandson of O’Donnell mansion housekeeper. Alice is an alcoholic and Eamon does not seem to be putting up with this, getting violent with her sometimes. O’Donnell mansion is isolated from the rest of the community and the O’Donnells seem not to fit in the local social life. An American Scholar, Tom Huffnung is also staying at the O’Donnell mansion as he is working on his thesis on the role of the Catholic aristocrats in modern day social and economic life. Casimir often gets carried away with Tom and tells him stories of his grandfather listening to Chopin play the piano and him remembering Yeats sitting in the hall, but none of his stories come together with actual facts and dates. Alice is trying to entertain herself drinking alcohol and dancing to music, remembering their childhood stories with Casimir and trying to forget her lonesome life in London. Claire often plays the piano and is getting ready for the wedding. She met her husband-to-be while giving music lessons to his children; he is much older than her. Judith is preoccupied with her father and the household duties. She is having baby monitor installed around the house to be able to hear her father calling. When O’Donnell children first hear their father’s voice through the speaker it gives them chills and soon we find out out that patriarchal authority of their father drove their mother to suicide, made their sister, Anna, exile to some African convent, made Judith give up her illegitimate child to orphanage, and left long-lasting trace on Casimir’s mental health. Father O’Donnell passes away just before the wedding day and the wedding has to be put off for a few months. After the funeral Judith gathers all her siblings and announces that they cannot afford living in the mansion due to rising maintenance expenses and offers selling the house. This news comes as a shock to O’Donnell children as this place was always a dreamy reminiscence of their carefree childhood, but after Alice decides to take uncle George with her to London, they agree to sell the place.



Aristocrats, the play was written by Bran Friel in 1979. This Donmar Warehouse production was directed by Lyndsey Turner.

Director:         Lyndsey Turner

Producer:       Donmar Warehouse

Casting:          Alastair Coomer



Bought my ticket form Donmar’s official website. £10 for a circle seat on the right hand side of the stage. The seat had a descent view with some restrictions on the right edge of the stage, but did not miss any significant moments of the play. Good value for money. Donmar Warehouse tickets go very fast, so keep an eye on the productions and social media to know when they open up the ticket sale.


Running time is 2 hours 15 minutes.


The Theatre Rat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *