December 20, 2011


Huge thanks are due to the multitude of contributing theatre and dance critics who volunteered their services, in return for two free tickets, to write most of New Zealand’s 2011 professional theatre and dance output into history.

I am personally very grateful to Raewyn Whyte for taking on the role of Dance Editor, to Sascha Monteiro for continuing to be our indispensible Webmaster at ‘mates rates’, and to Michael Wray for being my back-up when I’ve been out of range.

Michael is also the chair of The Theatreview Trust which we formed a year ago and was registered with the Charities Commission on 5 January as an arts and culture body. Special thanks are due to Margaret Belich for her efforts and skill in securing funding (see below), and to the other trustees: Todrick Taylor (Treasurer) and Dawn Sanders. All have selflessly given of their time and expertise to ensure Theatreview remains sustainable. The five of us have met monthly throughout the year to pursue and implement our purposes (below).*

To get an overview of some of this year’s most commendable theatre shows, see The HACKMAN Theatre Awards (Auckland), the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards and the alternative Kip Chapman-initiated Chapman Kip Theatre Awards (Wellington), and the Dunedin Theatre Awards.


Quantity is never as important as quality in the performing arts but the volume of work produced in a given year is a good indicator of the creative energy out there. In 2011 – despite a severely circumscribed Christchurch, a smaller Fringe and no dance festival in Wellington, and unexpected cancellations or postponements at Downstage – Theatreview covered 568 performing arts productions, compared with 530 (2010), 448 (2009), 359 (2008), 314 (2007), 233 (2006).

The 2011 figure comprises 452 theatre and 116 dance shows, and may include some productions more than once, where they toured – to regional Festivals, for example – and so got reviewed again. Although we cannot claim to have covered the entire field, the regional breakdowns are as follows:
THEATRE: Auckland (177); Wellington (173); Dunedin (35); Christchurch (22); Hamilton (12); Palmerston North (7); Tauranga (8); Southern Lakes Festival (8 comprising Wanaka [6], Queenstown [1], Arrowtown [1]); Hastings (4); Nelson (3); New Plymouth (1); Melbourne (1); London (1).
DANCE: Auckland (56); Wellington (29); Christchurch (18); Dunedin (9); Hamilton (2); Tauranga (1); Nelson (1).

Anyone who feels their region is under-represented and would like to review theatre or dance, or knows someone who would, should email theatre editor John Smythe ( and/or dance editor Raewyn Whyte (  [Note: Theatreview reviews professional performing arts productions, including shows within arts festivals and fringe festivals, co-op shows and the graduation productions of full-time performing arts degree courses. For more on the rationale for this, see the forum What gets reviewed.

To complete the stats:
217 news items were posted (with the single but ever-evolving item Hobbit Hooha – all the links, which commenced last year, ending up with 190 links to other media commentary on the hotly debated issue);
40 forums have been active, with Actors and the Hobbit building from 407 posts in 2010 to set a new record of 432, and
many comments have been added to reviews, correcting, challenging and debating to expand the ‘conversation’ and add value to the original piece.

All this material remains on Theatreview as searchable information for practitioners, teachers, students, researchers and anyone else interested in the performing arts.


After four years (2006-09) of building Theatreview with no funding, while freelancing as a writer and actor, I secured Creative New Zealand funding for 2010 ($40,000). My failure to reprise that for 2011 almost led to the closing down of the whole enterprise. It has become a full time job to manage the ever-growing flow of reviews, news and views (not to mention the reviews I personally write – 104 this year – along with seeing the shows others review which I must also attend as a Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards judge). And the financial overheads of running the site and my office do not diminish.

If Theatreview is to hold professional practitioners accountable for the quality of their work, it cannot be managed as one person’s self-funded hobby. Besides, I won’t be around forever so it has to become an operation others will want to take on when the time comes.

It was the setting up of The Theatreview Trust (above) that made me decide to give it one more year, and while I appreciate the validation offered by those who commend me for my continued commitment, I am no longer able to draw on my personal savings to see me through another poorly funded year. Nor can I take on other work (as I have in the past) to subsidise Theatreview, given the volume of work now involved.

This year we are delighted to have been assisted by The Nikau Trust ($200), the James Wallace Arts Trust ($3,000) and the ASB Trust ($9,224).

Paid-up Professional Membership of the NZ Performing Arts Directory (PAD) currently runs at 15 Organisations, 1 Co-op and 35 Individuals. The $2,950 this  represents certainly helps towards meeting the Webmaster fees and ongoing overheads. However, given Theatreview gets around 20,000 visits and 50,000 page views per month, we had budgeted for a greater uptake of this facility, designed to be of genuine value to all performing arts practitioners.

Google Ads have earned us a few hundred dollars a year, thanks to the visitors who click on them, and this year we have formed a relationship with Scoop Media Cartel to develop a better advertising facility. Anyone interested should click on this link.

The future is looking a little brighter. A Creative New Zealand Quick Response Grant of $7,500 has helped to retain Raewyn Whyte as Dance Editor from October 2011 to September 2012 and a CNZ Arts Grant of $25,000 will help to retain me as Theatre Editor and Managing Editor from December 2011 to November 2012. Obviously if we are to subsist anywhere above the minimum wage, let alone at a level commensurate with the work involved, further funding must be found.

For a start let me add a blatant appeal for practitioners to join the NZ Performing Arts Directory (PAD) and/or renew their memberships, and consider advertising on Theatreview. Theatreview also allows supporters to offer a koha.


At current funding levels, our major objective is to maintain the output and standards we have achieved to date in accordance with the productivity of the performing arts sector.

Our wish list beyond that includes a comprehensive upgrade of the website, for which significant funding /sponsorship will have to be secured.

And we dream of one day being able to pay the critics, whose work is the heart and soul of Theatreview. (At current levels, paying minimal fees, the annual cost would be $85,500).

Meanwhile very best wishes to you all for a festive Christmas and a productive New Year. 

John Smythe
Managing Editor / Theatre Editor


The purposes of The Theatreview Trust are as follows:

  • to inform, advise and educate the general public about performing arts productions being staged inNew Zealand.
  • to build and maintain an online archival record of performing arts productions which is readily available to researchers, students, organisations and individuals.
  • to publish free online reviews of performing arts productions as they are staged throughoutNew Zealand.
  • to invite comments and discussion of productions and the published reviews.
  • to publish news items of interest and value to the performing arts community.
  • to invite and host online forums on topics of interest and concern to the performing arts community.
  • to offer free audience membership for those who wish to receive regular alerts about new reviews and/or post comments or participate in forums.
  • to raise funds for the continuing operation of, being a website providing educational and archival resources for the general public, at no charge.
  • to carry on such other charitable purposes as are determined by the Trustees to be of a similar character.
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