I am a theatre lover. My husband and I see over one hundred – but close to one hundred and fifty independent theatre productions per year.
There are many small, independent theatres in inner Sydney. The productions range from previous broadway successes to world premieres of Australian plays. These plays are very inexpensive for audiences – usually less than half the cost of a Sydney Theatre Company or Belvoir performance. My favourite theatres include the Old Fitzroy theatre in Woolloomooloo, (formerly run by Tamarama Rock Surfers, but in 2015 run by Red Line Productions) and the Kings Cross Hotel Theatre. The Old Fitz is a nineteenth century pub with an intimate theatre which has been showing plays for decades. This year has been a particularly strong and entertaining year of plays and the upcoming plays advertised look just as interesting. They have added a ‘late show’ this year which is for shorter, often newer works, and there is a restaurant which is very customer friendly and will serve meals in a timely fashion between plays if patrons want to see the double.
Kings Cross is a huge hotel opposite the Coca Cola sign, and they have created a lovely theatre on the second floor (not the same as the old Bordello Theatre). This theatre is managed by Bakehouse, and the productions have been excellent. My only criticism is that unlike the Red Line, which runs the Old Fitz, with a terrific and user friendly website, Bakehouse has a website which does not necessarily advertise upcoming productions- so it is hard to ensure that you don’t miss a play!!
The Old 505 was in Elizabeth Street on the fifth floor of an apartment building on Elizabeth St. The theatre has recently moved to Eliza Street, Newtown and carries on the tradition of innovative independent theatre. Another well established venue which is renowned for showing new Australian plays is the Griffin in Darlinghurst. Formerly the Nimrod, it has remained true to its philosophy of promoting Australian writing talent with remarkable results.
For musicals, a fantastic venue is the Hayes Theatre, in the home of the old Darlinghurst theatre in Potts Point. The theatre has been revamped and is now a dedicated musical venue – I even caught Nancy Hayes herself in a show last year – which was spectacular. The production values of these shows are extremely high, the ticket prices are very reasonable and the casts are invariably full of talent and ability.
There are certain actors and directors whose presence in a production will guarantee its quality – for me, the ‘cannot fail’ directors include Damian Ryan, Kate Gaul, Michael Dean and Richard Hillier, and the actors include Andrew Henry, Anthony Gooley, Richard Hilliar, Lizzie Schebesta, Jeremy Waters, Francesca Savage and Sean Hawkins. For musicals, Jay James-Moody’s direction is always terrific.
We are all familiar with the Art Gallery of NSW and the MCA, but there are some other galleries which hold interesting, well curated shows continuously. One gallery is the SE Irvin Gallery in The Rocks, and another is The White Rabbit in Chippendale. The SE Irvin is run by the Natural Trust and there is an ever changing exhibition running throughout the calendar year. At the time of the Archibald prize, the gallery runs an exhibition featuring the artists who ‘should’ have been placed in the finals, using the witty title Salon de Refuses. A lovely coffee shop/cafe is on site and over the winter the handmade soups are a wonderful value-for-money lunch.
The White Rabbit is a privately owned gallery, with the works displayed over three floors. Two shows are mounted per year, each running for some months, though August and March remain closed for the installation of new shows. The exhibitions are of modern Chinese artists, some who could not freely exhibit in China. The works are eclectic but the overall effect is invariably stunning. Curation here is particularly good, with explanations of the artists intentions in relation to their works. Entry is free, and there is a tea house downstairs offering some unusual and delicious blends.
Sydneysiders are so lucky to have so many inexpensive entertainment options!
I review independent theatre on my ‘Posts’ page. I do not write about anything that is short of marvelous, so if I review a piece it means I really love it. I do not want to downgrade any theatrical work, so if I do not enjoy a play or if I feel that the performances are less than luminous I just wait for the next fabulous work to encourage people to see!