The hugely-anticipated Donmar West End season at last officially kicked off last night (17 September 2008, previews from 12 September) with the opening of Ivanov (See News, 10 Sep 2007), which stars Kenneth Branagh in the title role and continues until 29 November 2008.

Amongst the many well-wishers on opening night were Judi Dench and Rosamund Pike, who will be treading the boards later in the season, starring in the third offering directed by Donmar artistic director Michael Grandage, Yukio Mishima’s little-known Japanese play Madame de Sade.

The Donmar’s year-long residency at the West End’s 750-seat Wyndham’s Theatre, running concurrently with ongoing regular programming at its 250-seat Covent Garden home base, comprises four high-profile productions. Following Ivanov, there’s Twelfth Night, with Derek Jacobi as Malvolio from 10 December 2008 (previews from 5 December) to 7 March 2009; the UK premiere of Madame de Sade from 18 March (previews from 13 March) to 23 May 2009; and finally Hamlet, with Jude Law in the title role, from 3 June (previews from 29 May) to 22 August 2009. The first three are all directed by Michael Grandage with the last helmed by Branagh, who is the season’s artistic associate.

In the opening production of Chekhov’s first play, 1887’s Ivanov, in a new version by Tom Stoppard, Branagh is joined by Andrea Riseborough as Sasha and Gina McKee as Anna Petrovna (See News, 20 Jun 2008). The all-star ensemble also features: Kevin R McNally, Malcolm Sinclair, Tom Hiddleston, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Lucy Briers and Lorcan Cranitch.

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF IVANOV\'s 1st NIGHT PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE \"NEXT >\" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.
PHOTOS BY DAN WOOLLER FOR WHATSONSTAGE.COM.

For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for the curtain call at Wyndham’s Theatre and the post-show party at Browns along with the company and other first night guests including Jonathan Pryce, Kate Fahy, Finty Williams, Samuel West, Laura Wade, Owen Teale and Louisa Clein.

Once a man of limitless promise, Ivanov (Branagh) is plunged into debt. His marriage is in crisis, and his evenings are spent negotiating loans, avoiding love affairs and fighting to resist the small town jealousies and intrigues which threaten to engulf his life.

Also in the Ivanov cast are Malcolm Ridley, Ian Drysdale, James Howard, James Tucker, John Atterbury, Linda Broughton, Emma Beattie, Jonathan Battersby and Giovanna Falcone. The production is designed by Christopher Oram, with lighting by Paule Constable and music and sound by Adam Cork.

- by Terri Paddock


** DON’T MISS our Whatsonstage.com Outing to IVANOV on 7 October 2008 - including a FREE programme & EXCLUSIVE post-show Q&A – all for £35! – we’ve now secured EXTRA tickets for this previously sold-out event! - click here to book now! **