Michael Grandage has announced today (1 October 2010) that he is stepping down as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse in order to pursue more freelance directing opportunities. He will leave in late 2011 after nine years in charge of the theatre, which, since he took over from Sam Mendes in 2002, has further extended its national and international reputation far beyond its 250-seat Covent Garden home base.

In a statement, Grandage said: “With the Donmar’s reputation in a particularly exciting place both at home and abroad, I feel now is the right moment to start a hand-over period to a new artistic director. It will enable someone to build on the success we have achieved over the last nine years and to look to the future with real confidence. I have spent nearly 15 years running organisations in the subsidised sector in Sheffield and London and the experience has been completely thrilling from start to finish.

“I am now keen to have a career that moves away from being in charge of a building in order to develop my work as a director in other ways. There are an enormous amount of people to thank for making the last few years the most exciting of my professional life and I look forward to engaging with each and every one of them in the months ahead.”

The chair of the Donmar’s board of directors, Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury, said: "Under Michael's leadership during the past decade, the Donmar has gone from strength to strength - superb artistic excellence, exciting programming, triumphs on Broadway, global reach, the Wyndham’s and Trafalgar Studios seasons, and a transformed educational offering. For all of us, it has been a privilege to work with Michael through such a momentous period. These are big shoes to fill, but we're excited by the challenge of finding the right person to take us forward to further success."

Donmar achievements

Since taking the job in 2002, Grandage has built on the successes of his predecessor, Sam Mendes, and confirmed the Donmar's reputation as an internationally recognised theatre powerhouse, with some 80 major awards to its name under his tenure. His own productions - including Grand Hotel, Guys and Dolls, Frost/Nixon, Othello, The Chalk Garden and Red have won multiple accolades - while his ambitious Donmar West End season in 2008/09 was hailed a resounding success, winning myriad accolades including a host of Whatsonstage.com Awards.

As well as his acclaimed productions - which have toured internationally and featured the likes of Judi Dench, Jude Law, Derek Jacobi, Ewan McGregor, Penelope Wilton, Helen Baxendale, Alfred Molina, Michael Sheen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kenneth Branagh - Grandage’s tenure has also seen the expansion of the Donmar’s repertoire to include European playwrights such as Dario Fo, Albert Camus and Luigi Pirandello, as well as significant extension of its education programme.

His departure coincides with that of Donmar executive producer James Bierman, who recently announced that he is joining the Almeida as executive director in early 2011. His predecessor, Nick Frankfort, left in 2006 along with the Donmar’s general manager Tobias Round to form Creative Management and Productions Limited (CMP), with the aim of developing more of Grandage’s commercial projects.

Grandage’s forthcoming productions for the Donmar are King Lear, which opens in December starring Derek Jacobi, and a new version of Schiller’s Luise Miller which is scheduled to run next summer. Beyond this, productions he is attached to include a Broadway revival of Evita (which he directed in the West End in 2006) planned for spring 2012.