Griffin History

Griffin campaign badge 1985

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. 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. 

Early Griffin logo

November 2019: Griffin history updateJohn Senczuk, an early member and designer of many Griffin shows, has compiled a history of Griffin from first-hand accounts and extensive research. The book will be launched at The Stables Theatre on the morning of the First of December. Later that day, elsewhere in Sydney, there will be a reunion of those who worked at Griffin in any capacity during the formative first ten years. The book launch of a collection of Grant Fraser’s plays, also compiled and published by John Senczuk, will be held at that reunion.

Grant Fraser: Five Griffin Plays

Contents: Love and the Single Teenager: or, Ten Variations on Romance and Reality (1981), Cheap Thrills(1982), Street Level (1983), Summertime Blues (1984), Backbeat (1988)
Playwright Grant Fraser’s early writing career was synonymous with the evolving theatrical style and audacity of the fledgling Griffin Theatre Company; his plays built the brand, encouraging a young and vibrant audience.
From the break-out success of his debut production at the Stables in 1981 – Love and the Single Teenager – a new ‘ Grant Fraser play’ was an annual fixture to launch the Company’s season (a highlight of the Festival of Sydney). Sun-Herald Theatre Critic Mick Barnes championed Grant Fraser as ‘Sydney’s chronicler of teenage love’ who had ‘his finger on the responses of teenagers to each other and to their parents.’ 
This anthology of five plays – their first time in print – represents his work over the first ten years of the Griffin Theatre Company,  and is redolent of the Company and its culture at this time.

Early History: A summary of the beginnings of the Company can be found on the Griffin Wikipedia entry.

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.

Poster for ‘Crosscuts’, written by Brett Murphy with songs & music by Rob Sampson. Directed by Noel Hodda. This was the late show during the premiere season of ‘Away’ in 1986.

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.

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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.