Leading article: Star quality

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The Independent Online

A standing ovation for Michael Grandage, the artistic director of the Donmar theatre in London. It's not just that he has launched his West End programme with a staggeringly successful production of Chekhov's Ivanov with Kenneth Branagh. Or that he directs with such clarity and style. It is that he has done something with his West End series that everyone said could never be done, which is to revive straight and classic plays combining big name stars with well-crafted readings.

Ivanov is to be followed by Twelfth Night with Derek Jacobi, Madame de Sade with Dame Judi Dench and then Hamlet with Jude Law, all of which are already nearly fully sold out. And Grandage has done this as an offshoot of a quite different tradition of ensemble acting, small scale productions at the Donmar Warehouse.

Easy to sniff at the use of star names. But this is what made the London stage hum in the days of Gielgud and Olivier. At a time when the critics moan of falling audiences and the near monopolisation of the West End by musicals, the old style in the modern manner can still work wonders.