The Old Fitzroy Theatre is deepening its monthly lineup of improv and burlesque shows with an entire Red Line Underground season including comedy, queer performance, magic shows and a series of short single-actor plays.
First up is Toby Schmitz Live, a story-telling evening staged over four nights (June 26-29) with actor, playwright and director Schmitz in raconteur mode, riffing on whatever takes his fancy.
Schmitz is a long-time supporter and patron of the Old Fitz. He directed Louis Nowra’s This Much is True for Red Line Productions in 2017 and Howie the Rookie (2014). His play Capture the Flag debuted in the venue in 2007. Schmitz is currently performing in Wild at the Melbourne Theatre Company.
Next up, the basement theatre is adding a queer performance night from brand new events company The Witching Hour, founded by Dino Dimitriadis and showgirl, producer and performer Porcelain Alice. The inclusive queer events will feature a mix of themed nights, one-off shows by local and interstate guests, cabaret spots and contemporary queer performance.
“Sydney theatre is becoming more queer friendly and established spaces are thinking about queer work but we’re really just at the start of a shift,” says Dimitriadis, who is also artistic director of Apocalypse Theatre Company, which presented Metamorphoses in the venue in February.
“We want to bring a queer audience into the Fitz but we also want to bring a new audience to see queer work,” Dimitriadis says. “We really want a mixed audience that is inclusive and very much in a safe space.”
Dimitriadis and Porcelain Alice have strong ties to the queer performance community in Sydney and hope to allow the artists maximum creative freedom. “It will be untethered. The performers can just do what they do best,” Dimitriadis says. “I’m expecting it to be highly energetic and just a great night out.”
Actor Jane Watt will be a regular, continuing her improv show Bang Bang Rodeo!
The monthly improv show includes regulars such as actor and musical theatre Brent Hill, the recently announced star of School Of Rock (The Musical), and Theatre Sports champion Rob Johnson (currently featuring in Gypsy alongside Watt at the Hayes Theatre), and top female improv players Kate Coats, Anna Renzenbrink, Zoe Rae and Clare Cavanagh. The next night is Monday July 9.
“I am a total improv nerd,” says Watt. “I fell in love with it when I was at Sydney Uni before I went to drama school. But I found not a lot of actors are doing it. It sits more in the comedy world. So I’m reintroducing the theatre community to it at the Old Fitz. It’s so dumb, but it’s also so much fun.”
Watt says the improv performers work themes from whatever the current main stage Fitz show is into their scenes and use the set. “Sometimes it’s just a bare stage and we’re like … shit. But right now it’s a whole house! It’s going to be great. It’s such a joy to see the audience laughing so much and the actors are corpsing, it’s just ridiculous.”
Watt is also bringing her one-woman show, Gate 64, to the Fitz stage in September. She plays Winnie, a woman living in an airport. The show was a hit at the Sydney Comedy Festival and she’s taking it to Edinburgh in August.
“It’s based on stories and people from my own life so it’s very personal to me,” Watt says. “It’s whimsical and very silly but also quite heartfelt.”
Burlesque with Hannie Raegan will return on Sunday June 10 and run each month until the end of the year.
Raegan is actor and burlesque performer on a mission to win over the theatre crowd. “I really want to show people that burlesque isn’t just a tittie show,” she says. “Burlesque has been around since 1910 and it was originally included in satirical and parody shows, with a burlesque routine at the end as the finale. It was making fun of politicians and issues of the day. Modern burlesque now blends the satire with the dancing. We have men and women on stage.”
Like the improv nights, the burlesque shows use and riff on the current set on the stage. When The Wolves was playing at the Fitz, Raegan performed as a soccer ball-clad goalie in a parody of the classic burlesque balloon-popping routine. “We try to keep it fun and relatable,” she says.
Audiences can expect to see five or six performers, including men doing “boylesque” (exploring their feminine side) and “brolesque” (parodying their masculine sides). The last show included a contortionist and a circus performer.
“We are loving having a theatre crowd,” Raegan says. “It’s alternative and quirky and we’re dispelling the taboo around slut-shaming performers who do burlesque. The parody and satire is drawing more people to perform burlesque and see it. For too long, women have been told they can’t embrace their sexuality. But we are all sexual beings and we should embrace and celebrate our sexuality in all its forms.”
Scott Witt’s Just the Two Of Us will return on June 18. The unscripted and unrehearsed show features actors Helen Dallimore and Simon Burke.
Sydney comedy duo Mantaur (Rob Johnson and Harry Milas) present a nightmarish new sketch and cabaret show embracing the absurd limits of human ambition in The Recidivists from July 19-21. Milas will return in November with his magic show, Cascadia, written and directed by Jordan Shea.
Award-winning duo, Alice Tovey and Ned Dixon, will explain how to live in a man’s world in their show Mansplaining from August 9-11.
Actor Tom Campbell, who was last at the Fitz in the award-winning Misterman, will present his solo show One Hander from August 23-25.
The Old Fitz is giving Ang Collins’ Blueberry Play a second production from October 18-20, after a successful season in the Batch Festival at Griffin, and Kate Walder’s new show Vacuum the Rug will play from November 1-3, a combination of songs, ramblings and “occasional clown paroxysms”.
The full program and tickets are now available at Red Line Productions.