ICONOGRAPHY FROM THE NIMROD THEATRE OF SYDNEY (est. 1970 - diss. 1988)
The 'hottest' theatre company in Australia during the 1970s was the Nimrod Theatre of Sydney. Its legacy was new plays that are now Australian classsics: by dramatists such as David Williamson, Steve J Spears, Louis Nowra, Stephen Sewell, Nick Enright and Terence Clarke - and the development of an Australian Shakespeare. This page contains several poster designs that helped to market the upbeat, iconoclastic company. Here are poster designs by Martin Sharp for Young Mo by Steve J. Spears, Sydney, 1977 (directed by Richard Wherrett), Kold Komfort Kaffee, a cabaret devised by Robyn Archer, Sydney and Adelaide, 1978 (directed by Ken Horler, starring Robyn Archer and John Gaden), The Venetian Twins by Nick Enright and Terence Clarke, after the play by Carlo Goldoni (directed by John Bell and staged at Sydney Opera House as a contribution to the 1979 Sydney Theatre Company interim season) and, for the Company's tenth anniversary in 1980, a Ginger Meggs cartoon - also used to advertise a national tour of David Williamson's Celluloid Heroes (directed by John Bell). Martin Sharp is one several leading pop artists and cartoonists whose work promoted this theatre. Through his use of bold colours and ebullient graphics, the posters convey the dynamism of Nimrod Theatre in the 1970s.
Paul Iles was the second general manager of the company, 1976-1980, when he collaborated with co-artistic directors John Bell, Ken Horler and Richard Wherrett - joined by Neil Armfield and Kim Carpenter in 1979 - and the production manager, Grahame Murray.
For a history of Nimrod Theatre, see: Julian Meyrick, See How It Runs: Nimrod and the New Wave, Sydney, Currency Press, 2002.
'It should be compulsory reading for any up-and-coming theatre company hoping to make its mark'. - Leonard Radic, The Age, 5 August 2002.
'The first comprehensive, critical history of a major Australian theatre company that recognises that setting up and running such an enterprise takes business brains as well as artistic genius'. - Richard Fotheringham, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 June 2002.
Adrian Kiernander, 'John Bell and a Post-colonial Australian Shakespeare, 1963-2000', in John Golder and Richard Madelaine, (eds), O Brave New World: two centuries of Shakespeare on the Australian stage, Sydney, Currency Press, 2001, pp. 236-255.
Leonard Radic, The State of Play: the revolution in the Australian theatre, Ringwood, Penguin Books, 1991.
Julian Meyrick, ' "Loved Every Minute of It": Nimrod, Enright's Venetian Twins and the Invention of Popular Theatre', in Anne Pender and Susan Lever, (eds), Nick Enright: an Actor's Playwright, Amsterdam, Rodolpi, 2008.
Nimrod Theatre brochure design by Silvia Jansons, 1979. A six month subscription season included William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (with Mel Gibson as Romeo), Edward Bond's The Sea, Bertolt Brecht's The Life of Galileo, Ekkehard Schall, artistic director of the Berliner Ensemble, in cabaret, and the world premiere of David Williamson's Travelling North. The Company also produced Carlo Goldoni/Nick Enright/Terence Clarke's The Venetian Twins at Sydney Opera House, staged-readings of six German plays, Heathcote Williams' Hancock's Last Half Hour, Rodney Fisher and Robin Ramsay's The Bastard from the Bush, David Mamet's American Buffalo and, on tour in Adelaide, Melbourne and New York, Gordon Chater in Steve J Spears' The Elocution of Benjamin Franklin. Another overseas tour was a revival of Ron Blair's The Christian Brothers, this time to the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, London. The one-man play which starred Peter Carroll had already been all over Australia and to New Zealand, and was closely followed by David Williamson's The Club at Hampstead Theatre and the Old Vic Theatre in London. The 1979 Nimrod season sold 227,000 tickets in Australia, with shows presented in twenty theatres on tour. There were 145 actor contracts, with 70 per cent of expenditure spent on actors and theatremakers.
For more history of Nimrod Theatre, see Richard Wherrett, The Floor of Heaven: my life in theatre, Sydney, Hodder/Sceptre, 2000, and John Bell, John Bell: the time of my life, Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 2002.
The 1979 season was also marketed through these commissions to Tony Edwards, creator of the Captain Goodvibes 'Pig of Steel' cartoon character in the Australian surfing bible-magazine Tracks. Like this counter-culture periodical, Nimrod was part of the 'New Wave'.
One of the 'Nimrod Shakespeares' was a conflation of Henry IV Part One and Henry IV Part Two. During the four-hour production, dinner was served in the Downstairs theatre, converted to the Boar's Head for a medieval banquet. This poster design is by Silvia Jansons. One of the best aspects of working for this Company was the expert staff: at the time of this production in June 1978 they were: Grahame Murray (Production Manager), Margie Wright (Senior Stage Manager), Neil Simpson (Stage Manager), Andrew Bragg (Master Carpenter), Frank Phipps and Mathew Lorimer (Carpenters), Anna Wade (Wardrobe Mistress), Rosalind Ward (Wardrobe Mistress), Peter Gormley (Production Assistant), Penny Chater and Tim Robins (Acting Class Tutors), Wendy Becher and Jemma Cunningham (Box Office), Jann Eaton (Press Officer), Zandra Stanton (Party Bookings), Sue Hill (Business Manager), Philip Rolfe (Theatre Manager), Peter Barclay (Trainee Director), and the three Resident Artistic Directors, John Bell, Ken Horler and Richard Wherrett.
Nimrod Theatre Company moved from its Surry Hills base to the Seymour Theatre Centre at the University of Sydney. The twin-auditorium theatre is now the Belvoir Street Theatre, founded by Sue Hill, Christine Westwood and the theatre profession - with Company B under the direction of Neil Armfield for many years until 2010. The Nimrod acting style may be said to have been reincarnated in the Bell Shakespeare Company from 1990. Nimrod's archive is at the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.