2017: Looking ahead

Item 2: Fingers crossed

re Newcastle City Council (NCC) & Occupancy Certificate

Remember when our new theatre opened in March 2011? 

There was excitement about the future and plans for a liquor licence. The Committee Members at the time raced off and got their RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) qualifications anticipating the go ahead stamp from the NNC.

But, like all good dramas, there was an obstacle. The Occupancy Certificate wasn’t granted, therefore there was no Liquor Licence and the RSA qualifications slowly expired.

Since then, each new Committee (some faces have changed, others are stubbornly still serving NTC) has struggled to meet the criteria, or negotiate regarding the work already carried out and even re-examining all our plans and policies. The number of people-hours that has gone into this is too exhausting to calculate.

Thanks to the persistent work of Stewart McGowan, Janine Mullins and other regular Committee members throughout that time, not to mention our Theatre Manager, we started to believe we were getting somewhere. The obstacle may be overcome and we can get to the happy finale.

Recently, our architect, James Craft has come up with what we hope is convincing paperwork and plans that have been forwarded to the NCC.

If we get the green light, it means we can finally get that Liquor Licence and it opens up a whole lot of other possibilities for our Company. One step at a time.


Note: all animations used are free without copyright issues. 

Written by Debra Hely.


2017: it’s all systems go

Item 1. Showing now.

Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor


Yet another serious meeting for the team of comedy writers @ NTC.


The original writers’ room.*



Season: Opened 21 January and runs until Saturday 4 June. 

Book now – you won’t want to miss out!

Ring the Office: 4954 4958 or book online newcastletheatrecompany.com.au

Drawing on his memories from when he was a new writer for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows; Simon sets this witty and funny play in 1953. History lovers will no doubt recall this time period coincided with McCarthy’s witch hunt of communists (“reds under the beds”).

Noel Grivas is back in his role as Director and has gathered together an awesome cast.

Richard Murray relishes his role as Max Prince (inspired by Sid Caesar himself). The team of writers in this play consist of:

  • Carl Gregory as Lucas (Neil Simon’s not-so-secret avatar);
  • Craig Lindeman as Milt (inspired by Sheldon Keller);
  • Brian Wark as Val (inspired by Mel Tolkin);
  • Aaron Churchill as Brian (inspired by Tony Webster);
  • Lee Mayne as Kenny (inspired by Larry Gelbart and Carl Reiner);
  • Bronwyn Kanitz as Carol (inspired by Lucille Kallen and Selma Diamond); and
  • Drew Pittman as Ira (inspired by Mel Brooks).

The final member of the cast is Natasha Steggles as Helen – the secretary who dreams of being a comedy writer.

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Keen audience members might well enjoy doing their own bit of research on the real-life writers and performers who inspired this funny piece of theatre. Not that anyone really has to do this before seeing the show: it’s pretty obvious that the director and cast certainly did their homework. Although the physical appearances between the actor and Simon’s inspiration may not align, the cast (with the director’s guidance), certainly bring the time period and characters to life.

The set, costumes and lighting all contribute to the successful trip back in time to the 1950s when clever comedy was the king and queen of live television.

Including interval, the show lasts for about two hours and twenty minutes.

Photos by Noel Grivas. Written by Debra Hely.
Front, from left – Gary Belkin, Sheldon Keller, Michael Stewart, Mel Brooks; Behind Neil Simon, Mel Tolkin & Larry Gelbart. From: http://scriptfest.com/home/in-the-beginning-was-the-writers-room/

Keep watching this space – more exciting news to come…

2017 Season – Launched

With the set of Festive Season* in the background, (although largely hidden by a huge screen) our host, Richard Murray was the emcee of another successful season launch.

Stewart & Richard check projections prior to the start. Is Richard then playing with his shadow?

A total of 8 shows were revealed – here is the quick overview.


Stewart McGowan, current President on NTC was proud to welcome everyone and remind us all that 2017 sees the 60th Anniversary of our theatre company.


After that, directors began introducing their plays. First up was Julie Black who is directing Picnic by William Inge.


Adelle Richards was very proud to speak a little about the musical Blood Brothers by Willy Russell. We were then well and truly entertained by the singing of Wendy Ratcliffe who gave us a taste of the show, she was ably accompanied by a talented young woman whose name I sadly missed, but I did take her photo as you can see.


Drew Pittman & Amanda Woolford are co-directing the zany comedy A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody by Ron Bernas.


Then it was my turn to promote The Sea by Edward Bond. Thanks to Stewart who took the photos while I was on stage.


We then had a slide show interlude, recalling via very old, old, slightly old and then newer photos from NTC’s productions over the years. Some memories went back further than others in this short but slightly emotional tribute. The audience certainly enjoyed the reminders.

Pearl Nunn is directing Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. Her delivery in an American accent may have fooled a newcomer into believing she is an American, but that is not so.


Richard then had the joyful task of introducing the next director, Richard Murray who will be directing Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare. He was beside himself.


Fran Hodgson took to the stage next to introduce us all to Noel Coward’s Relative Values.


Finally, ex-President and veteran member, Leslie Wiles shared her passion and vision for her choice, Talking Heads by Alan Bennett.


Did you find your face among the audience in the random photos I took?


Those wishing to purchase Season Tickets are spoilt for choice. They can choose to see all 8 shows, or 7 or 6 depending upon their needs and availability.


Further information is available at the theatre (90 de Vitre St, Lambton), our website (newcastletheatrecompany.com.au) and even on our Facebook page. The theatre office is open 3-6 weekdays, so pop in or you can always ring (02 4952 4958) and leave a message outside those times.

*Festive Season only has a handful of shows left – don’t miss it. Audiences who have seen the show have nothing but praise (when they stop laughing) for this comedy by member Sally Davies. The remaining shows and times are as follows:

Friday 25 November 8 pm

Saturday 26 November 2 pm (no evening show due to CONDAs)

Sunday 27 November 2 pm

Wednesday 30 November 8 pm

Friday 2 December 8 pm

Saturday 3 December 8 pm



Famous in Newcastle!

Seen at the launch of Newcastle Theatre Company’s 2015 Season!

Arlene Richards introduces Gaslight

Arlene Richards introduces Gaslight

Beyond Therapy Pearl and James

Beyond Therapy. Pearl and James perform the opening

Gaslight launch

Gaslight excerpt. Rosemary and Alison

Blaxland launch

Michael Blaxland introduces Lady Windermere’s Fan

Brian Wark launch

Brian Wark introducing Cactus Flower

Gaslight launch 2

Richard and Rosemary on stage together in Gaslight


Janet Nelson launch

Janet introduces Dancing at Lugnasa

Isobel Denholm launch

Isobel Denholm introduces Female of the Species

Howard Rawlinson launch

Howard Rawlinson peruses the wine list

John Wood launch

John Wood introduces Doubt

All photographs by Debra Hely

The Boys – A Gritty “Whydunnit” Drama

by Debra Hely

I was at the Opening Night of The Boys at NTC. What a brilliant piece of theatre! If you enjoy robust theatre that digs into society’s issues and can cope with language, you won’t want to miss this production.

This strong play written by Gordon Graham, introduces us to the Sprague family: the matriarch Sandra (Cheryl Sovechles) and her three sons, Brett (Michael Byrne), Glenn (Craig Lindeman) and Stevie (Duncan Gordon). Each of her boys has a girlfriend, Michelle (Amy Wilde), Jackie (Natasha Steggles) and Nola (Cherie MacKinnon).

Even though as the photographer, I was fortunate enough to witness several rehearsals, my lens-based focus meant I had missed action that happened outside my peripheral gaze, not to mention the subtleties of the script. Sitting in the audience, thinking I already knew what I was going to see, I was quickly blown away by the impact of seeing and hearing everything at once. Nothing replaces the impact of strong meaty drama being acted out live on stage.

This production, directed by John Wood comes across as a genuine ensemble piece, from the robust and believable (often scary) character portrayals to everything that the entire creative team also contributed, including the set, costuming, lights, sound and so forth. Everyone who contributed must be very proud of how all the work has come together in this gripping drama.


Yes, the language is as foul as one would expect from violent misogynistic men who are overloaded with hate and resentment seeking someone or something to blame for their circumstances. The only solution they seem to understand is a physical and brutal one.

The violence is for the most part confined to the audience’s imagination. However, a few scenes give hints of what is going to manifest such as when two of the brothers scuffle and the girlfriends are subjected to nasty verbal onslaughts and the occasional off stage biff. Amazingly, the mother insists that she brought her boys up to love and respect women. She constantly indulges their whims and tantrums, accepting this aberrant behaviour as normal and typical of men.

The audience is treated as intelligent, and lots of questions are raised. Is the cause of such heartless violence to women due to a cycle of poverty? A lack of education? A broken family? Childhood abuse? Drugs? Alcohol? Or even men egging each other on to fit into their macho ideals that demean women? Or is it due to combinations of these factors? Or other circumstances altogether? The audience observes, reacts and then starts to think. There was a lot of discussion in foyer after the play finished.

We see how the women rally to defend their menfolk, only to slowly accept the truth as it emerges. These truths impact them on ways they don’t understand, in particular why the public blames them as much as the boys. Emotionally, the only way they can survive is to stick together. Scared, lost and bewildered, they start to question how they can raise a boy so that when he’s a man, he won’t go down the same path as his father.


This powerful piece of theatre had the audience appreciating the moments of humour, but mostly we were spellbound, only able to breathe freely again at curtain call, when we enthusiastically clapped as hard as we could. The commitment to their part by each and every actor was one of the major strengths of this production.

Yes, I’m biased. I’m a member of NTC, I’m on the Committee and last year I was on the panel doing the play selection for this year. I’m not only biased, I’m very proud. This season of NTC has been diverse, powerful and engaging with many excellent performances / directing / sets / costuming / singing / and plays that can make you laugh, cry, tap your feet, or even think – in other words be moved. And we still have two more plays in the season.

The Boys is on right now; the last performance is on the 18 October. Contact the theatre, via the office, online or Facebook. If you have a social conscience and like your drama meaty, you must see it.