Experiencing the best theatre in Sydney is totally possible for the hoi polloi. Thanks to a number of indie playhouses (some of them tucked away inside bars and pubs), and backyard theatre companies, there are some truly accessible options on offer. Here are some shows you can see for less than a fiddy.
A ghost story as well as a critique of the American involvement in Iraq, Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is a tragicomedy seething with anguish, guilt and strange voices – the strangest being that of the play’s titular big cat. The springboard for Joseph’s story was a news item from 2003, a report about an American soldier who shot dead one of the Baghdad Zoo’s remaining tigers after it mauled a colleague who was attempting to feed it through the bars of its cage. The play begins with a fictionalised recreation of that scene. Present are two nervy grunts on night patrol, Kev (Josh Anderson) and Tom (Stephen Multari), and a gloomily philosophical and very hungry tiger, personified here by Maggie Dence. There is also a gold-plated pistol, a souvenir from the firefight in which Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed. In quick succession, Tom loses an arm, the tiger loses its life, and Kev scores the gun. But that’s not the end of it. This is a world where ghosts speak to the living, where monsters stalk palace gardens, where dreams turn to ashes, and where the lines between man and beast are blurred. The fallout from the tiger’s death consumes its participants in different ways. Kev, unstable to begin with, is utterly unhinged, convinced the tiger’s ghost is everywhere. Tom, now fitted with a prosthetic hand, becomes obsessed with the retrieval of his war booty, a mission that engulfs Musa (Andrew Lindqvist), a freelance translator and former to
Insightful, deeply researched and expertly delivered, David Williams’ Smurf in Wanderland offers 90 minutes of political, demographic and personal perspectives on the round ball game in Australia. The show begins in relaxed, conversational style with Williams, the titular “smurf”, making a weaving run into the recent past; back to 2013, a year Sydney FC fans remember as one of great hope and profound despair. The hope, Williams reminds us, lay in the club’s signing of the ageing but marketable Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero. The despair came later, in the form of inconsistent on-field performances and an upwelling of toxic feeling between the club’s supporters and management. But it was a different picture in Western Sydney Wanderers territory, which Williams dared to observe in person while provocatively dressed in Sydney FC sky blue. There he observes a team on the rise and building a strong connection with fans and the local community. With two 45-minute halves to fill, Williams ranges widely across his subject, blending recollections of his own western suburbs childhood with anecdotes from the stands, match reports, tabloid scuttlebutt, existential musings on the nature of fandom (drawn from Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch) and thoughts on the cultural divides of Sydney. It’s interesting stuff, even to fans of other codes or sport agnostics, but by the second half the many threads of Williams’ thesis start to feel like a tangle. There’s a late charge in William
Hidden Sydney brings to life legends of Kings Cross's history – from its cosmopolitan ’50s to its debauched ’60s and its seedy ’70s. Billed as "immersive cabaret", the interactive show invites audiences through a laneway entrance at the back of World Bar (re-cast as 'The Nevada', the infamous brothel that once occupied the building) and up four levels of the building, one 'scene' at a time – most of them centred around songs. A cast of minor characters (bouncers, barmen, sex workers) keep the action moving between rooms, with an ensemble of well-known Sydney performers delivering larger roles. Property developer and crime lord Abe 'Mr Sin' Saffron and Les Girls legend Carlotta are name-checked early, and a whole sequence is dedicated to the fate of alt-publisher and anti-development campaigner Juanita Neilson (who went missing, presumed murdered, in 1975). Occultist and "sex magic" enthusiast Rosaleen Norton and street poet Bea Miles are just two of the colourful characters who get their own scenes.
Apocalypse Theatre Company are bringing John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama to the Old Fitz Theatre, with screen and stage stars Belinda Giblin and Damian de Montemas, alongside local mainstay Matilda Ridgeway and Charmaine Bingwa. Set in a Bronx parish and Catholic school in 1964, Doubt: A Parable concerns a power struggle between a the staunchly conservative elder nun who runs the school, and the charismatic younger parish priest who she accuses of molesting one of her students. Shanley's youth in Catholic schools informed the play, which he wrote as a study of faith and doubt. "The play truly belongs to the audience," Shanley told Time Out London ahead of the play's London debut in 2007. "[During its New York season] Arguments in the cab on the way home or at dinner about who was in the right, the nun or the priest, formed the last act of the play."