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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.

Welcome to the review archive.

Theatre and dance reviews since 2006.

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FWB: Friends With Boundaries


11/06/2024 - 15/06/2024

"A revelatory snapshot of midlife desires, disappointments and delight..



21/05/2024 - 25/05/2024

"Throwaway lines have the impact of comedic depth charges ..

Transmission: Beta


18/05/2024 - 15/06/2024

"Living inside history: a chic and powerful success..

"Play offers window into unprocessed pandemic memories..

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Ivan Aristeguieta - Too Easy


14/05/2024 - 15/05/2024

"Weaves multiple threads with consummate skill..



11/05/2024 - 09/06/2024

"Wondrous, entrancing and delightful (or should that be enlightful?)..

Tough Tiger Fist – Star-Crossed Brothers


07/05/2024 - 11/05/2024

"Tough Tiger Fist deliver a manic good time..

"Like a couple of seven-year-olds putting on a show at a family gathering..

Jerome Chandrahasen ON WORDS


07/05/2024 - 11/05/2024

"A phatic fifty minutes of social commentary..

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Live on Stage

Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch

23/04/2024 - 19/05/2024

"Ensemble work makes this Exotic production sing..

"A satirically amusing socio-political commentary..

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End of Summer Time


04/05/2024 - 09/06/2024

"Rutherford superb in latest play in ‘Dickie’ saga..

"Amusement, laughter, gasps and ‘oof’s at the slings and arrows launched by life..



12/04/2024 - 12/04/2024

"They cleverly conjure a tragi-comic blend of deep humanity and topical satire..

BACKSTAGE PASS Stories from Thirty Years of the Auckland Theatre Company

(not a specified venue)

01/01/2024 - 31/12/2024

"Richly resonant and revealing..

Two Guitars

Palmerston North, Wellington

30/09/2023 - 13/04/2024

"Comedic yet moving, timeless yet topical, challenging yet lyrical..

"Transcendent harmonies, complex characterisations, moving and theatrically fulfilling..

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14/03/2024 - 17/03/2024

"A brilliant premise is found wanting..

"Astonishingly insightful, moving and surprising..



07/03/2024 - 10/03/2024

"A triumphant portrayal of failure..

"Refreshing and reassuring insights into fallible humanity superbly presented..



05/03/2024 - 09/03/2024

"May be hard to swallow but raises our consciousness of an insidious condition that needs to be addressed..

Everyone's Got An Errol


05/03/2024 - 06/03/2024

"Feeling their way towards what could become an excellent show..

Antarctic Endeavours


02/03/2024 - 05/03/2024

"Universal truths of human existence make the fantastical real..

Suitcase Show


29/02/2024 - 02/03/2024

"Worth spending 50 minutes enjoying the trademark Trick of the Light creativity..

Don't Touch Me! A tale of cats and hugs


28/02/2024 - 02/03/2024

"An intriguingly revelatory unpacking of the title..

Our Own Little Mess


22/02/2024 - 25/02/2024

"Sets a very high bar for NZ Festival shows worth going to; deserves a long life and to travel far…..

Celebrity Trevor Island


21/02/2024 - 24/02/2024

"Good idea – could be realised better..

Making It Up (One Playwright to Another)


16/02/2024 - 24/03/2024

"Will resonate with anyone who has asked, Who am I? What am I? Is what I do worth anything?..

The People's Oracle - Free Life Lessons from your Neighbour


17/02/2024 - 17/02/2024

"Try your luck. A funny juxtaposition may occur...

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