Mendes will be a hard act to follow, admits Grandage

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The director who brought a touch of West End glamour to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield is to succeed Sam Mendes at the Donmar Warehouse in London.

Michael Grandage will take over later this year after Mendes, 36, has celebrated his 10th anniversary as artistic director at the small Covent Garden venue, which he turned into a powerhouse of sexy, sell-out theatre.

Grandage, 39, has won widespread acclaim for a string of productions at Sheffield, where he has been a passionate advocate for regional theatre, and at the Donmar, where Mendes made him an associate director two years ago.

But taking charge at one of the most talked-about venues in Britain will prove a challenge. Grandage admitted yesterday: "Sam's a difficult act to follow."

Admirers say his skill working with actors accounts for his success in luring stars including Joseph Fiennes to the Crucible – a venue better known for its snooker. In March, Kenneth Branagh will follow suit, playing Richard III in his first stage role for a decade.

At the Donmar, Grandage impressed the management team and the critics with four sell-out productions in the past three years: C P Taylor's Good; Passion Play by Peter Nichols, which won two best director awards; the Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along, which won three Oliviers and a Critics' Circle award for best director; and the current show, Privates on Parade, again by Nichols, which has been nominated for three Oliviers.

Mendes said he was thrilled by Grandage's appointment. "His contribution to the Donmar as associate director has been of inestimable value and established him as one of the country's leading directors," Mendes said.Grandage, a former actor who turned to directing seven years ago, will work alongside Mendes for six months before taking over in December. He said: "I think it's a wonderful opportunity to take a theatre that has spent the last 10 years building the most extraordinary reputation into the next stage of its development."