The York Realist @ Donmar Warehouse

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Tickets and more information:
Cover photo by: Johan Persson 

After finding success in previous Donmar productions including My Night With Reg & Splendour, director Robert Hastie returns with a revival of Peter Gill’s 2001 play The York Realist. Set in a Yorkshire cottage in the 1960s, the play focuses on George and the relationship he forms with John, the assistant director of the play George is in. As George has been failing to turn up to rehearsals, we gain more of an insight into the struggle George faces between staying in his comfort zone in Yorkshire and exploring new territory with John, dealing with issues of class.

Ben Batt in The York Realist at the Donmar Warehouse, Photographer Craig Fleming

(Photo by Craig Fleming)

Although the play has quite a short run time of 1hr 45 minutes, Peter Gill manages to create multiple layers within his text. There is no A plot or a B plot and Gill seamlessly stitches the themes in a beautifully, moving and rich text that’s only enhanced by this very talented cast. Yes there is a focus on the relationship between George and John but it is also how the ties George has with his family are just as strong, probably stronger. The scenes that intersect the two are particularly moving and they’re the best and most thrilling scenes in the show.

Ben Batt and Jonathan Bailey lead this phenomenal cast as George and John. Both actors have impeccable chemistry together, I could feel the sexual tension sitting in the back row of the circle. They are two sides of a coin. Where George is stronger, extroverted and more confident, John is closed in, introverted and more of a puppy-like anxious person. Both actors are undeniably gripping and sparks fly between them, a quality that is vital in a production and with characters like these. The cast is rounded out with an excellent ensemble with Lesley Nichol as a standout as George’s mother, who is as heartfelt as she is comedic. They all really gel together and create a wonderful family atmosphere, it felt like I was looking into my own family gatherings.

Peter McKintosh’s gorgeous set is well crafted and beautifully detailed and combined with beautiful lighting by Paul Pyant and Richard Taylor’s dreamy musical interludes only enhances the intimacy between George and John.

Stunning and emotive with a heart wrenching ending, it’s no wonder The York Realist is a hot ticket. If you can get your hands on a ticket, do so. Even though most of the run is sold out, the Donmar are hosting a benefit performance of The York Realist to support the Donmar’s Young + Free scheme. One reason I love the Donmar Warehouse is that they strive to keep ticket prices as low as possible so anyone can afford it. But their Young + Free scheme goes a step further to ensure those aged 25 and under are able to see excellent theatre like this for free. For more details on the benefit performance, please visit

Until next time,


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