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Indie Theatre Has a New Old Champion in Sydney

Welcome to Woolloomooloo's most eye-opening pub basement.

By Rima Sabina Aouf
November 24, 2014
By Rima Sabina Aouf
November 24, 2014

Sydney's only theatre in a pub basement, the Old Fitzroy Theatre has been a beloved stalwart of the independent scene in this city — and that's a position its new artistic management, Red Line Productions, are determined to return it to. They've announced the first six months of their 2015 season, with plans involving a roster of established indie talent, revisits of plays that had their premieres at the Old Fitz, and a late-night slot that will be made available to artists for the rarely seen price of free.

"Sydney needs a well-run, intimate small theatre venue. The Fitz is so damn special,” said Andrew Henry, one third of Red Line Productions, who took over the venue from Sydney Independent Theatre Company and were involved with this year's popular Howie the Rookie.

First on their slate is the return of Charlie Garber and Gareth Davies' absurd Masterclass, about the greatest actor of all time, Gareth Davies. In February, Workhorse Theatre Company will be presenting Cock, a much-acclaimed relationship drama by UK playwright Mike Bartlett, and in March, a revival of 1999 Old Fitz hit Freak Winds, written by and starring Marshall Napier. Best known for his acting, Anthony Gooley will be directing Orphans in April, while Anthony Skuse visits Latin America with The House of Ramon Iglesia and Kate Gaul returns to Ireland with Enda Walsh's Misterman.

In the late slot you'll find more experimental, improvisational or DIY-spirited works, making do on the sets of the regular 7.30pm shows. It's free to use the space, which is great news for artists, and cheaper to buy tickets to, which is great news for us. Already programmed are Kate Walder and Penny Greenhalgh's Bad (which has either not been written yet or just has an admirably vague blurb), Cameron Lukey's Playing Rock Hudson, improv show Holly and Ado Get It On! and Kate Box in Dolores, a play about domestic violence and sisterhood from New York writer Edward Allen Baker.

Running since 1997, the Old Fitz is a sweetly dingy favourite among Sydney's theatre crowd, with superfan Toby Schmitz recently telling the Sydney Morning Herald, "The Old Fitz is one of my great loves. When I did Brendan [Cowell's] Men there [in 2000], my life changed." Audiences at the Old Fitz over the last couple of years were less often privy to life-changing theatre, however, as the programming fell below expectations.

It's early days yet, but we're optimistic about the new Old Fitz, which seems to wrap its arms around both indie royalty and riff-raff (often the more fun to watch). With the recent closure of the theatre upstairs at the Tap Gallery, and the general dearth of independent theatre venues in Sydney, it's a bit of good news putting a spring in the step of board-treaders.

For more information on the Old Fitzroy season, see the Red Line Productions website.

Published on November 24, 2014 by Rima Sabina Aouf
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