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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 Theatreview.org.nz 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

Wellington

11/06/2024 - 15/06/2024

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

Puka

Wellington

21/05/2024 - 25/05/2024

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

Transmission: Beta

Wellington

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

Wellington

14/05/2024 - 15/05/2024

"Weaves multiple threads with consummate skill..

LIGHT CYCLES

Wellington

11/05/2024 - 09/06/2024

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

Tough Tiger Fist – Star-Crossed Brothers

Wellington

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

Wellington

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

Wellington

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..

DOOM & BLOOM: CONTROVERSY

Wellington

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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LOST LEAR

Wellington

14/03/2024 - 17/03/2024

"A brilliant premise is found wanting..

"Astonishingly insightful, moving and surprising..

GRAVITY & GRACE

Wellington

07/03/2024 - 10/03/2024

"A triumphant portrayal of failure..

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

blackpill

Wellington

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

Wellington

05/03/2024 - 06/03/2024

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

Antarctic Endeavours

Wellington

02/03/2024 - 05/03/2024

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

Suitcase Show

Wellington

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

Wellington

28/02/2024 - 02/03/2024

"An intriguingly revelatory unpacking of the title..

Our Own Little Mess

Wellington

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

Wellington

21/02/2024 - 24/02/2024

"Good idea – could be realised better..

Making It Up (One Playwright to Another)

Global

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

Wellington

17/02/2024 - 17/02/2024

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

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