Griffin History

The recent past can sometimes seem a lifetime ago, and in the case of The Griffin Theatre Co. that is literally true as some founding/early members have already sadly passed on, taking their stories with them. Because of that and also because of the lack of any substantial history of the Griffin Theatre Co online I have added this page as a repository for any stories, photos and recollections that may turn up. Griffin is a vibrant, successful theatre company but its early days are not well recorded, something that many of us who were involved in creating and/or nurturing the company through those times would like to see addressed. Please help us build a complete history.

Early Griffin logo

2019: John Senczuk, an early member and designer of many Griffin shows, is currently compiling a history of Griffin from first-hand accounts. If you or anyone you know wants to contribute  let me know via the Contact page on this site and I will put you in touch with him. The more input the better the history will be. Alternatively, send any written reminiscences to me via the Contact page.

Early History: This is an extract from the Griffin Wikipedia entry, where I originally posted it:

“The following is a potted history of the Company taken from the published history included in most early programmes, in this particular instance The Currency Press Current Theatre Series publication for ‘Morning Sacrifice’ by Dymphna Cusack (1986 Currency Press Pty Ltd):
“It was in 1979 that Peter Carmody, Penny Cook, Rosemarie Lenzo and Robert Menzies banded together under the directorship of Jenny Laing-Peach to present the Irish play ‘The Ginger Man’ by J.P. Donleavy at the Kirk Gallery in Cleveland Street, Surry Hills. They made a profit and went on to produce two Australian plays by John Stone at the Orange Door in Oxford St. Paddington – ‘Discovering Australia’ and ‘The Grand Finale of Rene Trouver’, directed by Peter Kingston.” The name ‘Griffin’ derived from the name of the street in Surry Hills in which Jenny Laing-Peach lived. Slowly the group enlarged (incorporating quite a few NIDA graduates) and next presented Joe Orton’s ‘Ruffian on the Stair’ at the ANU Canberra in March 1980. After talks with Bob Ellis and Anne Brooksbank, the owners of The Stables Theatre in Kings Cross, they were offered a lease. A month later ‘Ruffian’ played as a lunch-time and late-night programme with David Williamson’s ‘The Coming of Stork’ in the main timeslot. For the next two years a mixture of overseas and Australian plays were presented at The Stables. But more and more the Company was becoming aware of the amount of Australian writing talent available and in May 1981 after successful readings of four new plays, the decision was made to adopt an all-Australian policy. Applications were made to both the New South Wales and Commonwealth funding bodies and small grants were obtained. In 1982 the Company kicked off with Grant Fraser’s ‘Cheap Thrills’ and since then…Australian plays have been produced, most of which have been premieres. Writers represented are Stephen Sewell, Barry Dickins, Ron Blair, Steve J. Spears, Mil Perrin, Craig Cronin, Ingle Knight, Pamela Van Amstel, Ray Mathew, Clem Gorman, Ned Manning, Ross Lonnie, Doreen Clarke, Gordon Graham, Jennifer Paynter, Greg McCart, Mij Tanith, John Stone, Brett Murphy, Hannie Rayson and Michael Gow. For the 1984 season the Company was awarded ‘The Sydney Critic’s Circle Award’ for the most significant contribution to theatre that year.”

Patti McLaughlin, John O’Connell & Nicholas Papademetriou performing at the ‘Save Our Theatres Griffin Beach Party and Rally’ 1985. Photo from the Noel Hodda archives.

In 1986 Peter Kingston was appointed the Company’s first ever Artistic Director. He was followed into that position by Ian Watson.

Pat Thomson & Bob Hornery in The Secret House at Griffin in 1987. Written by Noel Hodda. Directed by Michael Gow.

In 1999, The Sun Herald described Griffin as Australia’s ‘Theatre of the Decade’.
The films LantanaThe Boys, and The Heartbreak Kid (which later spun off into the television series Heartbreak High) were based on plays first produced by Griffin. Away, Australia’s most produced contemporary play, also premiered at the company.”


Jack Ritchie (Designer), Grant Fraser (Playwright/Lighting Designer), Ben Franklin (Actor) (from the collection of John Stone/Laura Gabriel)

Grant Fraser, Brian Roberts & Peter Kingston on the set of 'Love And The Single Teenager' by Grant Fraser. Photo from archives of John Stone.

Grant Fraser, Brian Roberts & Peter Kingston on the set of ‘Love And The Single Teenager’ by Grant Fraser. Photo from archives of John Stone/Laura Gabriel.

Brigida Irving, Garry Scale & the late Brett Murphy performing at the ‘Save Our Theatres’ Griffin Beach Party and Rally. 1985. Photo from the Noel Hodda archives.