Director Sam Mendes says he goes for a walk outside theatres on opening night


Famed Sam Mendes says that instead of attending the opening night of his West End plays, he prefers to go “wandering” outside instead.

“You will find me on the opening night of pretty much everything I have ever directed, wandering around somewhere outside" Mendes told BBC Radio 4 show This Culture Life.

This is unique to British plays, he says, because critics are there with friends and family. “The opening night in New York is a celebration, and the critics have all been on the previous five or six performances" he said.

"I’m afraid the British way, which is not frankly as healthy, is that everyone’s there on the first night, all the critics, all your friends, all the agents. Everyone who matters is all there on the one performance, and it’s a lot of pressure, and I do spend a lot of my time as a director taking pressure off.

A "good leader... removes pressure” Mendes added. “But it does go into me, so I need to take myself away."

On one such walk during the opening night of his 1989 production The Cherry Orchard, which starred Dame Judi Dench, he came across the dormant Donmar Warehouse, and decided to help revive it. Saying some of that show was “pretty rudimentary”, Mendes said: “I was very nervous and thought this could be the end, it could go really badly".

"I just decided I was going to not watch, and I walked around Covent Garden". He came across the venue and persuaded owner Roger Wingate to allow him to run it.

Mendes has directed two James Bond films. His work on stage includes the award winning Company, The Ferryman and most recently The Lehman Trilogy.