The Old Fitzroy Hotel’s intimate cellar theatre has inconspicuously backed emerging Sydney talent since 1997. Determinedly independent, it is a treasure of the Sydney art scene and has seen the beginning of today’s biggest theatre makers; Kate Mulvany, Toby Shmitz and Josh Lawson, among others. It’s also attached to a historic Sydney pub, which with cheap beers and a fireplace, is an institution in itself.
This year, the Old Fitz Theatre is under the new management of Red Line Productions. Red Line is Sean Hawkins, Andrew Henry and Vanessa Wright, who formed while working on the hugely successful production ‘Howie the Rookie’ at The Old Fitz, for which they picked up six Sydney Theatre award nominations. In addition to an exciting season, one of the group’s proud introductions is the Late Night Sessions program for artists.
“Sydney is running out of performance spaces. Where does an emerging artist go to hone their skills? We’re opening the Late Night Sessions to give those starting out an opportunity to do this,” says Sean.
Following the main stage show, the venue will be taken over by up and coming artists, playwrights and comedians. Tickets are only $15 and the actors get to keep half the money – so the financial impact for them is minimal.
“When Andrew Henry got his first Sydney show, it was in a late night production at the Old Fitz called ‘The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan (A lie)’.It was eventually brought to the main stage at The Fitz and went on to tour Australia for three years! Now we’re proud to be running the venue,” adds Sean.
The 2015 season kicks off with ‘Masterclass (A play)’, with Gareth Davies and Charlie Garber, who are currently two leads in Bell Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’. The absurd comedy invites you to be taken by “two frail geniuses, who will guide you through a story of how they came to understand the true power of art.” Not a bad deal for a humble $20. (‘Masterclass’runs until 31 January, so get in quick).
Next up is an encounter with “sexuality and its discontents” in ‘Cock’ (3 February – 6 March), written by internationally-famed Mike Bartlett. And following this, ‘Freak Winds’ (10 March – 11 April) returns to the Old Fitz a decade on and brings with it Marshall Napier, original director and lead. “It’s a horror/thriller, which is a genre you never really see on stage,” says Sean. “It played off-Broadway and toured around the world. It’s both our nod to the past and a look to the future.”
Red Line has programmed a six month season, to give people the chance to submit.
The group also rescued the show ‘Playing Rock Hudson’, which was planned to run at the Tap Gallery Theatre, an independent theatre cornerstone that unfortunately had to close its doors in November last year.
“The Old Fitz is an absolute treasure. You walk into this pub cellar and it’s actually been converted into a fully operational 65-seat theatre. It’s nice to be part of one of Sydney’s little secrets!” adds Sean