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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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Music to Die For


09/08/2023 - 12/08/2023

"A memorable, amusing and sometimes touching life story conjured out of improv..

DIRTY WORK - An Ode to Joy

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

16/06/2023 - 25/05/2024

"Joy is at the heart of this feel-good comedy and important social critique..

"Sisyphus myth hits home hard yet something doesn’t quite land..

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The Sun and The Wind

Tauranga, Auckland

28/07/2023 - 24/03/2024

"Perfect performances enable audiences to consider the effects of intergenerational trauma..

"Inspired writing, great performances, and totally committed storytelling..

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Prima Facie

Wellington, Hamilton, Palmerston North

24/06/2023 - 26/05/2024

"Cracking courtroom tour-de-force mentally and emotionally spellbinding..

"A stunning and challenging night of theatre..

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Jim Stanton – Bangwagon


23/05/2023 - 27/05/2023

"Like a glittering explosion from a kaleidoscope with cracked and distorting mirrors..

Clarissa Chandrahasen – Flawless


23/05/2023 - 27/05/2023

"A lightness of touch and excellent timing compel our smiles and laughter..

Johanna Cosgrove – Hi, Delusion!


23/05/2023 - 27/05/2023

"Comedy of truth about delusion deserves a long life..

Barnie Duncan – Just Jolks


23/05/2023 - 27/05/2023

"Enough said. You have to be there...

James Nokise – Right About Now


16/05/2023 - 20/05/2023

"A superb show that uses comedy to explore a timeless human flaw and bring it home to now..

Nick Rado – Radology


16/05/2023 - 20/05/2023

"Heritage, health and generational humour plus ‘the perfect joke’..

Melanie Bracewell – Forget Me Not


13/05/2023 - 13/05/2023

"Presented with a delightful ease that belies the exquisite crafting of her thematically aligned comedic commentary..

Sanjay Parbhu – Dope-Amine


10/05/2023 - 12/05/2023

"Clever premise and good stories could deliver more on the promise..

Kura Forrester – Here If You Need


09/05/2023 - 13/05/2023

"Outrageous hilarity and a touch of poignance bring meaning to the cryptic title..

Abby Howells – La Soupco

Wellington, Hamilton

09/03/2023 - 25/02/2024

"Full of originality, disarming honesty and fanciful narrative..

"A lively and insightful ride, bouncing between two states of being..



09/07/2022 - 05/05/2023

"Epic creative explorations – so much experienced in so little time!..

"Humour, surprises, artistic creativity and the joy of playful friendship..

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Taku Waimarie


02/05/2023 - 05/05/2023

"Thoroughly enjoyable discovery of the value of cultural identity..



29/04/2023 - 27/05/2023

"Seasoned cast of veteran actors superb..

"A rich theatrical treat on many levels..

Cocked & Reloaded


18/04/2023 - 22/04/2023

"Good comic timing and team-work generate 80 minutes of well-wrought fun..


Dunedin, Nelson, Wellington

14/10/2022 - 25/03/2023

"Entertaining excellence that pricks the pretensions of those in power..

"Masterful miming and a theatre full of laughter..

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Whangarei, Wellington, Hamilton

14/10/2022 - 02/03/2024

"A courageous act of generosity and care that makes the human divine..

"Offers astonishing revelations into human experiences that are fundamental to our very existence: unique yet universal..

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Only Bones V1.10


11/02/2023 - 07/03/2023

"Playfulness that variously fascinates, astounds, intrigues and provokes empathy..


Wellington, Dunedin

05/03/2023 - 19/03/2023

"A poignant exploration of love, death, grief, and what it means to live a life that subverts expectations..

"If the purpose is to set us adrift in a Limbo where things that may once have seemed important are…..



02/03/2023 - 05/03/2023

"Entertainingly absurdist production raises pertinent questions about being disenfranchised, robbed, angered, apologetic and even forgiving..

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