Ensemble Theatre aims to create diverse, accessible live theatre of the highest quality that entertains, educates, enlightens and challenges. Our productions appeal to a broad audience of all ages. Each year we present a season that includes the best new international plays alongside classics and brand new Australian works, ranging from laugh-out-loud comedies to riveting dramas. Ensemble Theatre’s Artistic Director Mark Kilmurry writes: “Ensemble Theatre has always been a place to share stories and my aim is to continue this tradition while matching those stories with the best creative talent from our vibrant theatre scene.”
“The Ensemble believes that theatre can, and should be, a civilizing influence in society.” said Founding Director Hayes Gordon AO, OBE. This original vision for the theatre is still followed today.
Ensemble Theatre in Kirribilli, Sydney is Australia’s longest, continuously running professional theatre company and has constantly maintained the highest standards in theatrical presentation.
As well as 10 mainstage productions each year, Ensemble Theatre now support’s emerging directors and new writers through our BOATSHED PROJECTS which include staged playreadings of brand new scripts, offering patrons a glimpse into the rehearsal room via DIRECTOR AT WORK sessions, backstage tours and the SANDRA BATES DIRECTOR’S AWARDS which allows two emerging directors to work as Assistant Director on two mainstage plays each per year under a professional mentoring program that is gratefully supported by the SB&W Foundation.
Since its inception, Ensemble Theatre has presented over 350 productions at its home venue, the Playhouse, Sydney Opera House, Theatre Royal, Seymour Centre and The Concourse Theatre. The company has also toured many productions around Australia including FRANKENSTEIN (to 28 venues through 2013), TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE (2011 Drover Award for Best Touring Production), HALPERN & JOHNSON with Garry McDonald and Henri Szeps, RAIN MAN, MIXED EMOTIONS, FACE TO FACE, A CONVERSATION, FLATFOOT and SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS (2007 Helpmann Award for Best Regional Touring Production). Ensemble Theatre productions have also been presented overseas including the 1980 UK tour of NO ROOM FOR DREAMERS and END OF THE RAINBOW which featured at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Many of Australia’s favourite performers have appeared at the Ensemble Theatre including Lorraine Bayly, Simon Burke, Michael Craig, Russell Crowe, Penny Cook, Max Cullen, Tim Draxl, David Field, Max Gillies, Nancye Hayes, Reg Livermore, Garry McDonald, Todd McKenney, Peter Mochrie, Tara Morice, Amanda Muggleton, Caroline O’Connor, Georgie Parker, Marina Prior, Kate Raison, Craig Reucassel, Brooke Satchwell, Henri Szeps, Chris Taylor, Anne Tenney, Jack Thompson, William Zappa and international performers such as Warren Mitchell and Greta Scacchi.
Ensemble Theatre celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008. A limited edition book commemorating the theatre’s history is available for purchase through our Box Office – 02 9929 0644. The theatre is the longest continuously running professional theatre in Australia, now 58 years old. The theatre will celebrate 60 years of continuous operation in 2018.
On May 11 in 1958, a group of talented theatricals, who had been studying acting with American expatriate actor Hayes Gordon, assembled to present the first of two Sunday night performances in Cammeray Children’s Library under the banner ‘Variations on Similar Themes’. The invitations to their premiere performance of a selection of Tennessee Williams’ works one of the actors noted, “We haven’t a name yet. Yes, we admit to training – Strasbergian, Stanislavskian, Meisnerian, Gordonian etc and we emphasise what might be referred to as the ‘ensemble’ values in production”.
In 1960, the company moved to the current premises in the old boatshed at Careening Cove. The boatshed was converted by the members of the company into a theatre in the round and for 20 years presented theatre in this format. During the early 1980’s the venue underwent a major refurbishment during which time the company moved its base of operations to the Playhouse, Sydney Opera House which was being used as a cinema at the time. Ensemble Theatre’s refurbished venue was re-opened in 1984 and the company celebrated 40 years in its Kirribilli home in the year 2000 with an extended season of 16 plays presented at four venues across Sydney.
Founding Artistic Director Hayes Gordon, who ran the theatre for it’s first 27 years, appointed Sandra Bates as Artistic Director in January 1986, a position she held for 30 years until January 2016. Sandra stands as the longest serving Artistic Director of any theatre company in the country and she led the theatre through uncertain economic times to establish it as one of the most successful theatre companies in Australia with the third largest subscription base in the country. In 2011, Sandra invited Mark Kilmurry to share the role of Artistic Director. Mark Kilmurry took over as sole Artistic Director in January 2016.
To view a list of our past productions, see: Ensemble Production History