John Smythe

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John Smythe has trained and worked professionally in New Zealand, Australia then back in New Zealand as a playwright, director, screenwriter (& screenwriting teacher), actor, theatre critic and book writer.

His formal qualifications include a Bachelor of Dramatic Art from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (Sydney) and a Certificate in Screenwriting from the Australian Film Television and Radio School. He has also completed honours papers and a range of script writing courses.

Theatre directing credits in Australia include plays by Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Gorki, and world premieres of plays by himself, Len Radic, David Williamson, Louis Esson, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Jack Hibberd and David O’Brien. Back in NZ he directed his own trilogy of short plays – ENTRANCING EXITS: Ms Conception; Nothing Twisted; Used Heads, at Bats Theatre, Wellington International Festival of the Arts; Faulty (sic) Towers & Blackadder’s Banquet at the Museum Hotel.

Playwright credits include Entrancing Exits (BATS Theatre), Conundra (Ensemble Productions), Swaggy Mack and his Magic Back Track (Arena Theatre), The Seven Stages of Hugh Mann (Melbourne University Theatre), Party Games (Jane St Theatre; La Mama) and Making A Play (Melbourne Theatre Company; Central Theatre), Where There’s a Will (BATS Theatre). Unproduced plays include Thelma, Weather and The Virtues of Reality.

John has also written The Peace Monster (Vintage, 1991); Downstage Upfront: the first 40 years of New Zealand’s longest-running professional theatre (Victoria University Press, November 2004) and The Plays of Bruce Mason – a survey (VUP & Playmarket, November 2015).

Amid a wide range of acting roles on stage, television and film, John has played Polonius and the Gravedigger in Hamlet twice (2006 and 2011). In 2012 and with Arts On Tour NZ in 2013 he played James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Carl Jung in Jan Bolwell’s Dancing in the Wake. In 2015 he played Barry Scanlan in his own play, Where There’s a Will, at BATS Theatre. (Since 2000 he has also played Birdboot in an annual VUW English Dept reading of Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound.)

Before becoming the founding Managing Editor of in 2006, John was a theatre critic for The Melbourne Times, The Australian, Theatre Australia Magazine, The National Business Review.

John Smythe's reviews



11/03/2006 - 13/03/2006

"Rich tribute to a living treasure..

Instructions for Modern Living


10/03/2006 - 15/03/2006

"A soporific mix..

"Get your act together, guys..

The Dragon's Trilogy


11/03/2006 - 18/03/2006

"Nearly perfect..

"Memorable theatre..

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The Holy Sinner

Christchurch, Wellington

10/03/2006 - 09/10/2010

"Pope Cliff..

"Squandered opportunity?..

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Page 8


08/03/2006 - 12/03/2006

"One man, his family, his life..

"From storytelling to spectacle..

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Please Don’t Feed the Models


06/03/2006 - 11/03/2006

"International potential..

"A little too thin..

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Jo Randerson's Skazzle Dazzle


07/03/2006 - 11/03/2006

"Skazzle Dazzle baffles..



02/03/2006 - 01/03/2014

"True power and wonder in the showing..

"Full-on to a fault..

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Aarero Stone


04/03/2006 - 08/03/2006

"Opportunity wasted..

"Where is the key?..

Tristan & Yseult


03/03/2006 - 07/03/2006

"A love that conquers debt..

"Truly heartfelt tragi-comedic thrill..

Super Vision


01/03/2006 - 05/03/2006

"Intelligence without magic..

"Technology use makes for fascinated snooping..

Bright Abyss


02/03/2006 - 06/03/2006

"A joyous experience..

"Comedy with plenty of buzz..

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The Other Side of the Fence


27/02/2006 - 02/03/2006

"Valuable experience..



28/02/2006 - 04/03/2006

"Delahunty does it again..

"Pessimistic panto for adults..

Biscuit and Coffee

Dunedin, Auckland, Wellington

01/03/2006 - 28/04/2007

"Frothy coffee..

"Addictive theatre..

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24/02/2006 - 26/02/2006

"Easier to admire than like..

"Audience abuzz..

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Blood of the Lamb


26/02/2006 - 28/03/2006

"Doing Bruce Mason proud..

The History Boys


24/02/2006 - 28/02/2006

"Lives up to expectations..

"More is more..

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King and Country

Dunedin, Wellington

24/02/2006 - 10/10/2006

"Fearsome realities faced with song and humour..

"Cathartic theatre..

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Dr Buller's Birds


25/02/2006 - 18/03/2006

"Passion of lecture in full flight..

"He killed what he loved..

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The Cottage


24/02/2006 - 27/02/2006

"The Cottage..

"Infectious energy in gay play..

Les Arts Sauts in Ola Kola


24/02/2006 - 20/03/2006

"Heavenly spectacle..