Tag Archives: Damien Ryan


Sydney: Ensemble Conversations, a weekly series hosted by Ensemble Theatre’s Artistic Director Mark Kilmurry, has generated over 116,000 views since April.

This week Artistic Director Damien Ryan (Sport for Jove Theatre Company) joins our Artistic Director Mark Kilmurry to dive deep on Ensemble Conversations.  Damien has been at the forefront of directing Shakespeare in Australia with plenty of well-known works from ROMEO AND JULIET to TITUS ANDRONICUS under his belt.

Ensemble Conversations features interviews with actors and creatives. Ensemble Ambassadors Georgie Parker, Todd McKenney, Kate Raison and Brian Meegan, writers David Williamson and Melanie Tait, directors John Bell, Priscilla Jackman, Lee Lewis and Francesca Savige, actors Luke Carroll, Emma Palmer, Ben Wood, Chantelle Jamieson, John Wood, Sharon Millerchip, Glenn Hazeldine, Darren Gilshenan and The Chaser’s Andrew Hansen, Craig Reucassel and Chris Taylor, cabaret performer Trevor Ashley,  Australian writer Joanna Murray-Smith, Directors Kate Champion, Wesley Enoch, Iain Sinclair, Garth Holcombe, Jamie Oxenbould, Huw Higginson, Hannah Waterman and former Ensemble Artistic Director Sandra Bates have been part of Ensemble’s series answering questions about the world of theatre and television.

Stay connected and join our online conversation. #ensemblesydney

To tune in to Ensemble Conversations please follow us on Facebook @ensembletheatre


This image: Adel Querol
Featured image: Terry Karabelas
Production images: by Seiya Taguchi

THE WARS OF THE ROSES is the second of Sport for Jove’s Shakespeare Histories compendium, ROSE RIOT.  It brings the audience from Henry VI, through Joan of Arc to Richard III with a boldness and bravado of accessible imagining and uniformly excellent performances.  Performed, as is its sister show THE HOLLOW CROWN (SAG Review), in the openness of Bella Vista Farm, the production is a visceral experience when close to the cast in the slatted shed and a considerable exercise of intellect when royal evil is aired on an outdoor stage after interval. Continue reading THE WARS OF THE ROSES: SPORT FOR JOVE’S STUNNING SHAKESPEARE SEASON


This image: Eloise Winstock by Seiya Taguchi 
Featured image: Bron Lim & ensemble by Seiya Taguchi

To the curmudgeon who pontificated loudly, even during the show, that it wasn’t working.  I don’t know you, even though we have been engaged in the closeness of watching theatre together.  So I can’t take you for a drink to let you know that you are just plain wrong and need to take your elitist, out of touch, resistant attitude and just sod off.  Me, and I could hear and see, the other 150 plus audience just loved THE HOLLOW CROWN, first in the two part ROSE RIOT season from Sport for Jove.

Playing at Bella Vista Farm, ROSE RIOT is two golden productions which are forged with vision, experience and coherent expression by a company who make bold choices, assemble extraordinary talent and encircle their audiences with enthralling beauty.  There’s a reason why Shakespeare lends his name to an adjective.  Reverence and relevance and the adventure of seeing the darknesses of great wrongs and the shiningness of majestic rights, all before our eyes with real voices, the musicality of poetry and a physicality that delights and engages.  And ideas, always the ideas.  Continue reading THE HOLLOW CROWN: A MAGNIFICENT PRODUCTION FROM SPORT FOR JOVE


Eloise Winestock

This summer Sport for Jove celebrates ten incredible years of theatre-making, ten summers of thrilling and surprising outdoor theatre, with their  most immersive and ambitious season yet: SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE RIOT.

ROSE RIOT consists of two distinct but linked productions.  THE HOLLOW CROWN (Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V) and THE WARS OF THE ROSES (Henry VI, Richard III).  Audiences can enjoy either show as a standalone production or experience full the cycle by seeing both. Continue reading ROSE RIOT: SPORT FOR JOVE’S IMMERSIVE, AMBITIOUS SHAKESPEARE. GIVEAWAY


All art is dangerous and to be an artist can cost you your sanity and your life. Is art meant to serve society, or is it a vehicle to serve the arrogance of the artist? Or, can it be either or both?!

This intense, explosive production by Sport For Jove,  luminously directed by Damien Ryan, is disturbing and powerful yet also at times lyrical and poetic.

In some ways the plays feels like a cross between a play by Tom Stoppard and Vaclav Havel , sharp and witty , wordy with piercing use of language.

First published in 1981 , in thirteen scenes over two acts , NO END OF BLAME roams over six decades of the 20th Century , from 1918 to the mid 1970’s , across various locations in Europe, and the play pits a passionate, provocative pair of artists, one a painter, Igor, the other a cartoonist, Bela ,against the forces of censorship and insidious state control that corrupt and stifle the human right to freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Continue reading SPORT FOR JOVE PRESENTS ‘NO END OF BLAME’ @ THE SEYMOUR CENTRE



This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the first production of this landmark Australian play. While Sport For Jove’s production, as co- directed by Damien Ryan and Samantha Young, has some terrific segments, it  a little uneven, mainly in the first half, where the acting, at times, seemed a little forced. 

The staging was excellent – Lucilla Smith’s set design was very impressive – lyrical and simple, featuring a stage partially raked and there was a very effective use of light drapes which were sometimes tied back.

Ben Brockman’s lighting was vibrantly atmospheric. The storm scene towards the end of the first act was very well done, and a little reminiscent of Philippe Genty in style.

The Crucible @ Bella Vista Farm

Crucible-inset Image
Images from Sport for Jove’s revival of The Crucible. Pics by Seiya Taguchi

It was only as I started my car engine to begin the trip to the performance tonight that I realised I wasn’t carrying any tissues. On my wander back to the house, I wondered … would I really need them? THE CRUCIBLE always makes me cry and it is the Elizabeth Proctor character who is the agency of those tears but Sport for Jove’s production is at Bella Vista Farm. Perhaps the open, less intimate space of a barn wouldn’t really translate into the genuine emotion which Arthur Miller’s text brings out in me. In the event, it was lucky that I did go back. Tissues were required but the agency was unexpected.

In the 1692 Puritan community of Salem, Massachusetts, Betty Parris, one of the town’s young women, has been struck down with a strange illness which leaves her unable to speak or move. Her friend, Abigail, confesses that the girls have been dancing in the woods with the West Indian servant woman, Tituba. Dancing combined with nakedness and drinking blood seem to have brought this illness on and its symptoms appear to be spreading among the girls. There is talk of witchcraft in the town and the Reverend John Hale arrives with the Malleus Maleficarum to root out evil. Continue reading The Crucible @ Bella Vista Farm


The stress of family   life beautifully captured in Brett Boardman's photograph
The stress of family life beautifully captured in Brett Boardman’s photograph

Setting:  The setting for Act 1 was a domestic home suggested by an open house frame which clearly delineated rooms without walls.  The cast were on stage reading a bedtime story to the children and working at the table when the audience entered.

The stage was stripped to black brick and cement and black floor, the thin steel rods of the structure cleverly placed to maximise the use of the playing space.  One audience member in the front row with long legs clearly had his feet in the living room. The doors had a steel lintel at 2m high which made the frame even easier to accept.  There was no fussy miming of doors even when a character came from the bathroom so the action flowed freely.  Having the children run around the space made the domesticity even more present and the disregard for the traditional facing of the audience by performers also reinforced this.

The audience seating is in 3 wedges at Belvoir.  The hallway of the house faced the Audience left wedge.  On the OP side were kitchen down (benchtop, sink, cupboards, stool), dining room mid (table and chairs) and bedroom up (bed and side tables).  At the US of the hallway was the bathroom with toilet and double sink.  On the P side of the hallway was the lounge room down (sofa, toys, tub style chair facing US) and the kids room up (bunk bed).

 Act 2: presented a much more claustrophobic scene, delineating a small flat with a galley kitchen (sink, benchtops and a free standing fridge) and living room with a fold out bed and extra chair facing US and coffee table.  This time the set was aligned to the centre wedge of audience.   The ten minutes unfolding and making up of the bed was enjoyed by the audience and many people around the audience had a little chat about it.  The lady next to me was asleep by then and the couple behind me had been talking loudly about being bored.  So this piece of business gave them a new topic.

I think the uprights, even though they were thin, would have affected the view of most audience at some time.  Unfortunately for me, it was the scene in the bedroom when Nora is about to slam the door of the doll’s house.

Lighting:   The final lines of the play referred to darkness and for mine, that certainly was a theme.  It was very dim.  I thought it was just me but when there were important events in Act 1, I could see people leaning forward to peer into the action.  There were very few lanterns front of house and when cast moved DS the bottom of their face disappeared.  I didn’t actually recognise Damien Ryan until he threw his head up to say “God”.  It was only time his face was lit clearly.  Additionally, the emotional hit of the girl’s little black shoes was completely lost.  Moody might have been the imperative but it didn’t work for me or my companions.  One of our party thought it might have been to avoid possible shadows from the set struts.

Barndoored fresnels and par cans provided the back lighting in the house but even so the Audience R front rows were lit up in Act 1.  The conventional lanterns were on low intensity and very yellow especially for the night scenes.  There were no colour changes, no blues for night etc just different intensity levels.  There were a couple of white LEDs for extra depth.  And some silk or frost on the perch pars.

There was well timed area lighting for the home.  Well timed also, was the DBO just before Act 1 Sc2.  It served to inform the audience that something had changed, even though lights up revealed the same scene.  Also well operated, was the gradual fade up of intensity leading to the denouement of Act 2.

There were practical lamps for bedroom, practical reading lights for the bunks and a living room lamp in the flat.

Audio:  In Act 1 there was a tinkling, glockenspiel sound which was so close to my family’s Grandfather clock that I knew it was about time passing.  It was echoed in an alarm sound and the landline ring and a mobile message tone in Act 2.

 This light sound was supplement by an occasional bassy, reverbed, thumping which was more pronounced at the end of the Act and did not reoccur in Act 2. At one stage, the children were both using earphones so that the child cast were not exposed to the porn discussion, then, as a neat segue into the next scene, the daughter began dancing.  At this time, the sound effect changed to thump in time to the child’s moves.  The sound designer also resisted letting the audience in on what Nora was dancing to, but the kids knew. The sparse SFX were really well placed and deeply evocative.

It’s not often I get into a philosophical debate at interval about a Sound Effect.  I thought it was the sound of Nora being metaphorically stomped and beaten down by Torvald. My companion believed it was a rumbling precursor to the shaking of the marriage foundations.  But he’s a therapist!

NORA plays upstairs at Belvoir Street until the 14th September.

This review was first published in Judith Greenaway’s blog-http://www.sydneylivetheatretechnicalnotes.blogspot.com.au



Celebrating its 5th anniversary and Shakespeare’s 450th, this year Sport For Jove brings us a most fabulous production of this lesser known, rarely performed complex and difficult ‘problem play’ by Shakespeare .

The play has a quite improbable, rather dark, implausible plot ( one can imagine it straight out of a TV soap – a desperately ill king healed , unrequited love leading to a forced marriage , a very intelligent woman foolishly chasing – going to extremes even – a man who has nothing but disdain and humiliation for her, a ‘bed trick’ ( recorded on a mobile )and eventually a reconciliation all in times of war. It is both a tragedy and a comedy Under the gripping direction of Damien Ryan and with its very strong, superb cast the audience can focus on the situations drama and story especially of Helena and Bertram and their emotional development. It has been updated with the use of mobile phones etc .Shakespeare’s language is clearly delivered and feels fresh and new.

Continue reading ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL