In London, the work of contentious American playwright Neil LaBute (playwright) has become most closely associated with the Almeida Theatre, where his plays The Mercy Seat, The Shape of Things, The Distance from Here and bash have all had premieres in recent years. However, in 2005, it will be another off-West End theatre, the Donmar Warehouse that will stage the European premiere of LaBute’s latest, an “explosive” new play about race and infidelity.

This Is How It Goes will run at the Donmar from 31 May to 9 July 2005, as part of the theatre’s newly announced spring/summer season. Set in small-town America, the play centres on an interracial love triangle. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Donmar artistic director Michael Grandage described the play as “very provocative … it really fucks with your head”. He added that the Donmar had secured the rights through intensely competitive haggling and promised that the production would “cause a bit of a stir”.

The UK production will follow fast on the heels of This Is How It Goes’ world premiere in March at New York’s Public Theater, where it will be directed by George C Wolfe. A UK director has not yet been announced, though it will not be LaBute himself. In addition to his stage work, LaBute is an accomplished screenwriter and director whose films include Possession, Your Friends and Neighbours, Nurse Betty, In the Company of Men and The Shape of Things.

Ahead of the LaBute, the new Donmar season will kick off with the newly commissioned version of JP Miller's play Days of Wine and Roses, written by award-winning Irish playwright Owen McCafferty and directed by Peter Gill, who directed McCafferty’s Scenes from the Big Picture at the National last year. Donal and Mona leave Belfast for a new start in Swinging Sixties’ London, where they fall in love with life, each other and the drink. Miller's portrait of a couple's alcohol addiction was made into the 1962 film of the same name, starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick.

Days of Wine and Roses was originally commissioned and developed by Caro Newling for Scamp Film and Theatre Ltd, the production company Newling set up with former Donmar artistic director Sam Mendes (See News, 15 Oct 2004). It will run from 22 February to 2 April 2005 (previews from 17 February).

It’s followed, from 12 April to 21 May 2005 (previews from 7 April), by a new production of David Greig’s lyrical 1999 play, The Cosmonaut’s Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union, in which two forgotten cosmonauts orbit a world which can’t hear them. Greig translated Albert Camus’ Caligula for the Donmar last year. His other plays include Europe, Victoria and Outlying Islands.

After the LaBute premiere, the Donmar will stage Peter Oswald’s new version of German playwright Friedrich Schiller’s 1800 romantic tragedy Mary Stuart, which traced the relationship between the English monarch Elizabeth I and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd – whose wide-ranging theatre credits include The Duchess of Malfi, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Six Degrees of Separation and Mamma Mia! - Mary Stuart will run from 20 July to 3 September 2005 (previews from 14 July).

Schiller’s other plays include Intrigue and Love, Wallenstein’s Camp, Wallenstein’s Death, The Piccolomini, Maid of Orleans, William Tell and Don Carlos, the last of which Grandage has just staged at Sheffield Crucible in a production, starring Derek Jacobi, that transfers to the West End’s Gielgud Theatre in January (See News, 5 Nov 2004).

Currently at the Donmar, Hecuba, starring Clare Higgins in the title role, concludes this Saturday, 13 November 2004, and is followed by Grandage’s own revival of Broadway musical Grand Hotel, which runs from 29 November 2004 to 12 February 2005, following previews from 19 November (See News, 27 Oct 2003).

- by Terri Paddock