Arts & Entertainment

The Show Must Go On: Sydney Independent Theatre

Graham Jones, Greg Purton, Kerry Glasscock & Billy Millionis. Photo: Chris Peken


As one of Sydney’s independent theatre companies celebrates a momentous milestone, some others are evolving their offers and even further as some unexpected new players enter the scene.

Over it’s history, the Sydney theatre scene has undergone some very dynamic changes to the environment, in terms of the type of shows performed and more recently to the type of spaces available to producers of these shows. The biggest of these changes recently has been the shift towards smaller independent theatre companies producing shows for smaller venues due to financial constraints. As the Director of Venue 505 and 505 Theatre, Kerri Glasscock has witnessed first hand this shifting dynamic throughout her twenty-plus year career: “Certainly when I was starting out there wasn’t really an indie scene at all. It was starting to be created by the Darlinghurst Theatre and Glenn Terry in a more formulated way, as opposed to having a divide between professional and amateur theatre.”

For many people outside looking in on the theatre scene, this idea that ‘amateur’ theatre is ‘indecent’ is probably the biggest misconception that needs to be overcome, because that simply isn’t the case. The indie scene is often where many young actors, producers and writers hoping to make a career out of their art form cut their teeth and get noticed by the big end of town; where they can make a living following their passion.

“There simply isn’t the work available in the major companies, if you’re a young actor or dancer there aren’t the ensembles paying 12 month contracts for you to work, so it’s not a career option…often that’s why a lot of young actors head to LA to get training and an opportunity for a few years before returning,” explained Kinetic Energy founders/directors Graham Jones and Jepke Goudsmit.

With this exact problem in mind, many of the independent companies, such as Pulse Group Theatre, are opening up their own spaces to outside companies, or as is the case with 505 Theatre and Blood Moon Theatre opening up brand new fresh spaces for performances. In the case of Pulse Group Theatre, they have had their own space for what is approaching 20 years and have been primarily using it as an acting school, which has meant that past students often enquired about using the space to put on new shows. For Artistic Director Billy Millionis, this is very exciting and a proud moment: “100 percent because I was once those guys and it’s hard. So we’re always trying to help other companies and people that don’t usually get opportunities.”

In the cases of 505 Theatre and Blood Moon Theatre, they have both gone a slightly different route by opting to open up two entirely new spaces: a 70 seat theatre by 505 and a new performance space at The World Bar for Blood Moon Theatre. In regards to The World Bar and Blood Moon Theatre, the partnership arose after a long period of cooperation with small theatre groups by World Bar management, who often allowed their function rooms to be utilised as rehearsal spaces during the day. As those groups and General Manager Greg Purton continued to work together, a constant issue with the scene was persistently a major topic of conversation. “They said there was a real shortage of those small to medium sized venues in Sydney and that a number of them had closed recently in the area, so they asked if we ever thought about using the space that we’ve got in the nightclub and it blossomed from there really,” said Purton.

For 505 it was much more a case of them out-growing their old home base, which they still have but use more as a development space now, and wanting to offer a fresh new space with the most appropriate capacity. When asked about the influx of new spaces into the scene, Glasscock said: “It’s great. The more the merrier, but people shouldn’t think that because lots of theatres are opening it’s all ok in the independent sector. There is still an absolute lack of venues and it’s very, very difficult for venues to maintain their existence and be financially stable.”

As these companies and venues look to the future, often the biggest hurdle is that challenge of remaining financially viable with zero or very limited government funding. Due to this, we often see groups looking to collaborate on different works to help share that burden. This ensures that the scene remains dynamic – because, as Glasscock explained, “[Often this sector of theatre] is where the most exciting work happens and people are able to push boundaries of storytelling, form and genre. It’s the cultural heart of the city and where that buzz that people can’t put a word to comes from.”

Each of these theatre companies have some passionately crafted and truly dynamic shows just over the horizon. If you haven’t already, isn’t it time you saw the gripping energy of Sydney’s small theatre scene for yourself?…

A Property Of The Clan: Sep 29–Oct 17. Blood Moon Theatre, 24 Bayswater Rd, Darlinghurst. $20-30+b.f. Tickets & info:

We, the lost company: Oct 13-31. Old 505 Theatre, 5 Eliza St, Newtown. $22-33+b.f. Tickets & info:

Illuminate: Sep 25-26. St Luke’s Hall, 11 Stanmore Rd, Enmore. $15-25+b.f. Tickets & info: 9665 6489

Tune In – A One Day Kinetic Jazz Event: Sep 27, St Luke’s Hall, 11 Stanmore Rd, Enmore. $20-30+b.f. Tickets & info: 9665 6489

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