Vanessa Byrnes

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Dr Vanessa Byrnes is an award-winning director, actor, producer and performance teacher who’s worked extensively in film and theatre in New Zealand and overseas. She has led and collaborated on more than 150 theatre and screen productions during the past 25 years in everything from independent, self-funded works to major international productions. This includes numerous feature films, short films, television commercials/drama, radio, and theatre. She is a passionate advocate of the power of creativity, the significance of the role of the artist in society, and the quality and innovation of New Zealand work. She is currently Head of Creative Industries at Unitec (Auckland).

In 2000 Vanessa was the first Australasian to assistant-direct at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, staging The Two Noble Kinsmen for the Globe’s main stage with director Tim Carroll and the Red Company at The Globe. In 2015 she directed a heavily-cut and highly contemporary version of Antony and Cleopatra for Unitec’s third year actors, which was recently reworked for 9 shows at Auckland’s Pop-up Globe theatre season (28 March- 9 April 2016).

Vanessa was Senior Acting tutor and Manager of the Acting Department at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School; in over 11 years there she also taught acting and directed productions at Toi Whakaari and Victoria University. In tertiary environments and professionally, she has directed many classic, contemporary, devised and text-based theatre productions.

Vanessa trained at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School (Acting, 1994) and Waikato University (MA, 1992: PhD, 2015). Her doctorate focussed on directing, looking at the praxis of selected New Zealand text-based theatre directors. She is currently writing further in this area. She has held senior leadership roles for various arts education bodies, and freelances under her own production company. Vanessa is a past Board Member of Downstage Theatre, Playmarket, the Shakespeare Globe Centre (NZ) and TAPAC: The Auckland Performing Arts Centre. As a director she brings compassion, rigour and craft to the table.

Vanessa Byrnes's reviews


Wellington, New Plymouth, NYC, USA, Hamilton, Nelson, Auckland & Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Wanaka

11/02/2010 - 03/09/2016

"A gripping experience..

"Love and loss, greed and selflessness, devotion and betrayal..

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Tale of a Dog

Auckland, Tauranga

20/04/2009 - 30/11/2009

"A neat little package..

"Enjoyed in a well-behaved way..


Invercargill, Christchurch, Wanaka, Tauranga, Taupo, Wellington

09/02/2007 - 30/05/2014

"Secret lives in common..

"Hotel Secrets..

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The Butler

Dunedin, Hamilton, Tauranga, Christchurch

09/06/2006 - 16/10/2010

"Dinner party evoked through dream-like logic, comedy, disturbances, visually rich mobile tableaux …..


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Ship Songs

Hamilton, Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Arrowtown, Paraparaumu, Wanaka

06/08/2008 - 07/04/2012

"Ship Songs Sparkles..

"Poignant, rollicking, tragic, lyrical, cheering and stirring..

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Apollo 13: Mission Control

Auckland, Hamilton

20/07/2009 - 15/08/2009

"A fun experience with real dramatic tension..

"An interactive treat: ‘Failure is not an option’..

Cuban Carousel

Tauranga, Wellington

24/04/2009 - 25/04/2009

"History made accessible through energetic dance and music..

Letter to Blanchy: Stir Crazy

Christchurch, Tauranga

29/03/2008 - 27/02/2009

"Rooted in its origins..

"Audience well hooked in the end..

500 Letters

Tauranga, New Plymouth, Hamilton, Nelson, Wellington, Auckland

12/10/2006 - 04/10/2008

"Trusting truth..

"Memorable memoir with music and inventive projections..

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On The Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her Young Lover

Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin

15/01/2008 - 27/09/2008

"Meros for office!..

"Perfect timing..

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Compleat Female Stage Beauty


13/08/2008 - 16/08/2008

"Shakespeare, Sex & Stanislavsky channelled in rich, ugly, beautiful play..