Our History

New Theatre was born from a democratic voice and from the very beginning we’ve done things our way.

We’re not slick, we’re not refined and we don’t conform. We believe in artistic and social expression, not just escapism. When we take the stage, we’re for real.

Our doors are open to everyone – from those looking for their start, to those who never want it to end.

We’re a beacon for social movement; a hub for local enthusiasts. We’re driven by passion, not money.

We’re not interested in awards or accolades, we act out of love.

You can’t define us or second guess us. We won’t just invite you to take a seat, we invite you to take part.

And we’ll always stay true to what we do.

Always real. Always raw. Always New.

New Theatre was set up in 1932 as the Sydney Workers Art Club, opening with the slogan “Art is a Weapon”. The first full-scale production in 1933 was The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. The theatre helped galvanise opposition to Nazism in the 1930s and led the ultimately successful fight against stage censorship from the 40s to the late 60s, culminating in the now legendary staging of the banned America Hurrah in 1968. It has produced plays on important political and human rights issues through the struggles of anti-apartheid and black deaths in custody, to political satire on the Howard government. Since 1994 it has also regularly mounted productions in association with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

In the 1950s, new theatre staged the first Australian production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and performed his All My Sons before Paul Robeson. In 1954 new theatre produced Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odets, which went on to become a Broadway hit, playing coast to coast in twenty American cities. The company performed for builders in the bowels of the Sydney Opera House while it was being built, went out to the factories and the shop floors with revues and satires, and took a production down a mine in Glen Innes to entertain striking miners.

The theatre has mounted some 550 productions, and is one of Australia’s oldest continuously producing theatres, moving from Pitt Street to Castlereagh Street and then to Kings Cross, until finally settling in its current home on King Street Newtown in 1973. The theatre purchased the current premises at 542 King St, Newtown in late 1972 and established New Theatre ( Properties ) Limited to convert the previous picture tube factory into a theatre, to then maintain the building and to exclusively support the ongoing activities of New Theatre (Sydney ) Incorporated.

New theatre has played a major role in educating young talent, providing a career springboard for new performers, directors, artists, technicians and playwrights. The large number of artists who have benefited by their association with New Theatre include Maggie Kirkpatrick, Nick Enright, Dinah Shearing, Noeline Brown, Alex Buzo, Linal Haft, Tasma Walton, Simon Burke, Carol Skinner, Lyn Collingwood, Doreen Warburton, Elaine Hudson, John Hargreaves and Steve Peacocke.

New Theatre does not receive any on-going grants or subsidy. We rely solely on the voluntary work of our members and volunteers and the support of our audiences.



New Theatre was the proud recipient of the 2016 ACON Honour Award for Arts & Entertainment.
The citation read: “New Theatre has not only provided a unique platform for LGBTI stories to be told on the stage, but has also fostered the careers of hundreds of LGBTI theatre practitioners. New Theatre has been nominated for their 25-year commitment to LGBTI content and productions for the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and for recognising diverse sexualities and genders as an important demographic within the theatre’s community and audience.”

In 2007, New Theatre was honoured by the National Institute of Dramatic Art for its contribution to the Australian Performing Arts and 75 years of continuous production.

“That it is New Theatre that finds the wherewithal to produce contemporary work with a cast larger than ten on a consistent basis tells us something of that company’s commitment to good and significant writing” – Kevin Jackson

“New Theatre has an admirable tradition of staging plays that commercially focused companies wouldn’t touch” – Time Out Sydney

“New Theatre was born from the ideal of wanting to provide the opportunity and avenue for one and all, where raw artistic expression would be encouraged, embraced and showcased. They should be applauded for their passion and fortitude” – www.weekendnotes.com

“New Theatre’s ability to showcase as well as nurture both mainstream and fringe elements of theatre is a rare gift to be treasured by the Australian arts community” – Inner West Courier

“One of my favourite things about New Theatre is its endlessly optimistic belief in its audiences’ intellect. Of all the places to attend theatre, only The New constantly offers an acerbic wit under-laced with an idealistic buoyancy that refuses to sink to a cookie-cutter-TV-watching passivity to which almost all theatre has felt compelled (at some time or another) to acquiesce in the name of being ‘entertaining.” – Lisa Thatcher

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