Culture //

Young, creative, and on the fringe

Startup theatre companies are breathing new life into Sydney’s amateur drama scene, and the Fringe festival is an ideal starting point, reports Honi Soit.

Sepy Baghaei and Ava Stangherlin, founders of startup theatre company Gretel in Darkness.

This is not an easy city in which to get a creative endeavour off the ground. The audience is small, the funding options are limited, and culturally we still seem to be finding our feet.

Sydney Fringe provides some means of redress. An “independent festival for the visual and performing arts”, it supports up-and-coming talent with facets of production such as marketing and insurance, but, as of 2012, is un-curated or ‘open-access’.

Within the mix are a number of debut theatrical productions by young startup companies.

Boxed In, described by co-director Jack D’Arcy as “dark comedy with elements of farce and heartbreak”, follows three friends who cut their losses in a mundane rural town and move to the city, taking poorly paid jobs as removalists. A surprise discovery uncovers old tensions and personal challenges.

D’Arcy, 18, founded Dead Cat Theatre Co, a startup theatre company, with Tom Hawthorne and Tim Quaife. The trio met at high school and was brought together by their love of theatre and performance, and formed Dead Cat as a way to work on wholly original projects.

“It’s super competitive and there aren’t really many opportunities for people our age,” said D’Arcy. “In terms of doing something that’s 100 per cent completely new, there’s not many places that will say ‘here, have a stage, have money, put something on’.

“I don’t think we’re out to reinvent the wheel, but we want to make something that sticks out.”

The idea behind Boxed In was conceived by one of the Dead Cat team during a bathroom break. Written and performed by D’Arcy, Hawthorne, and Quaife, who already have another project in the works after Fringe, it is at the King Street Theatre in Newtown from September 7 to 9.

Sepy Baghaei and Ava Stangherlin, founders of startup theatre company Gretel in Darkness.

Meanwhile at the TAP Art Gallery & Theatre in Darlinghurst, AADA graduates Sepy Baghaei and Ava Stangherlin will co-direct their new company’s first production, Grimm Tales. Only 20 and 21 respectively, Baghaei and Stangherlin formed theatre co. ‘Gretel in Darkness’ to “explore humanity’s relationship with storytelling through the performance of classic tales from a variety of cultures”.

Tales is an adaptation of some of the original Grimm Brothers’ fairytales, including Hansel and Gretel, Ashputtel, and The Golden Goose.

“It’s rough, it’s raw, and it’s brutally honest: worlds away from the saccharine, sanitised fairytales we grew up with,” Baghaei said.

Stangherlin added: “The dark and richly layered stories contained in Grimm Tales strike a chord with audiences of all ages – they tell of the things we value and the things that scare the hell out of us.”

Grimm Tales plays from September 11 to 15 at the TAP Gallery, Darlinghurst. The Sydney Fringe festival runs from September 7 to 30, around Sydney. For more information visit

Filed under: