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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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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...

Our Place


16/02/2024 - 18/02/2024

"Childlike fantasy and adult reality confront each other and embrace..

U R Back


16/02/2024 - 18/02/2024

"A wonderful group-focused experience..

"A balmy-cum-barmy experiential echo of our journeys through life..

Lads on the Island


03/02/2024 - 02/03/2024

"Friendships and relationships explored .....

"An exceptional production of a literally extra-ordinary play..



01/01/2024 - 31/12/2024

"An essential resource for young practitioners and anyone working with the youth demographic..

UnReel (development season)


18/12/2023 - 18/12/2023

"Yet another Te Rakau production that entertainingly employs the alchemy of theatre to address a crucial social issue..

We Wrote This


12/12/2023 - 13/12/2023

"‘Thank you whoever you are there in the dark’..

"The premise, that the only consistent thing in life is change, is thoroughly and entertainingly explored..


Auckland, Gisborne, Palmerston North, Wellington

30/03/2023 - 02/12/2023

"The art of Waiting for Godot..

"Profoundly entertaining. Don’t wait, book now...

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Treasure Island: The Pantomime


18/11/2023 - 13/01/2024

"Jthan Morgan ‘unquestionable star’ in Circa’s panto..

"A treasure in itself that families of all persuasions will enjoy..

Naturally Curious


14/11/2023 - 25/11/2023

"Piques our curiosity, celebrates diversity and welcomes inclusion..


Palmerston North, Nelson, Wellington

10/09/2020 - 11/11/2023

"The totality is inspiring – not least as a superb example of the ephemeral alchemy of live theatre..

"An entertaining ride across bike-break mountain..

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Robert Lord Diaries

(not a specified venue), Global

23/10/2023 - 31/01/2024

"Informative, evocative and curiously engaging..

It Came From Beyond the Script


13/10/2023 - 23/03/2024

"A great exercise in technical improv..

"Tropes of the genre traversed to satisfying effect..

We'll Still Be Friends After This


11/10/2023 - 11/10/2023

"Yet again we witness small miracles of interactive creative co-operation..

The Importance of Being Earnest


07/10/2023 - 04/11/2023

"Classic play with a contemporary twist..

"Wilde’s deliciously eloquent text delivered with fluency in a refreshing production..

SGCNZ National Shakespeare Schools Production 2023


01/10/2023 - 01/10/2023

"A passionate, committed and finally joyful outcome of an intensive creative process..

Fame or Die


19/09/2023 - 23/09/2023

"A winning charm in the way Ginge and Minge work with and off each other..

We've Got So Much To Talk About

Wellington, Lyttelton, Auckland

13/09/2023 - 10/12/2023

"Stockwell Outstanding in 'We've Got So Much to Talk About'...

"A unifying exploration of the sensation and circumstance to do with being a mother...

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A Tart on Tour

Auckland, Wellington

14/02/2023 - 16/09/2023

"Recommended to anyone who has ever dealt with rejection and kept going..

"A testament to her skills, resilience and capacity to survive where others have not..

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07/09/2023 - 16/09/2023

"Superbly crafted stories brought to life in riveting performances..

I Want To Be Happy

Auckland, Wellington

18/08/2023 - 30/09/2023

"Leaves its audience very happy at having engaged with another Nightsong treasure..

"A transformative experience, a total delight, undeniably emotionally moving, gut-wrenchingly funny..

The Boy Who Caused 9/11


23/08/2023 - 26/08/2023

"Bound to relate to your own experiences, observations and existential musings..

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