Ensemble Theatre

The Ensemble Theatre is an Australian theatre company and theatre, situated in the Sydney suburb of Kirribilli, New South Wales.

The Ensemble Theatre viewed from Careening Cove


It is Australia's longest continuously running professional theatre group,[1] having given its first performance in Cammeray Children's Library on 11 May 1958. It relocated to the current premises in the old boatshed on the shore of Careening Cove in 1960.[2]

The theatre was founded by Hayes Gordon AO OBE along with the Ensemble Studios acting school, which introduced Stanislavsky-influenced method acting to Australia. Ensemble Studios was Australia's longest surviving acting school when it closed in 2009. Gordon passed on the position of Artistic Director of Ensemble Theatre to Sandra Bates in 1986, but remained Principal of the acting school until his death in 1999.[citation needed] Bates was joined by Mark Kilmurry first as her deputy and then as co-director, with Kilmurry replacing Bates upon her retirement in 2015.[3]

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, the Ensemble had to postpone their 2020 Season - the company allowed ticket holders to convert their ticket to a credit voucher.[4]


The Ensemble complex honours veteran stars Lorraine Bayly, incorporating Bayly's Restaurant, in recognition of her long-running commitment to the theatre (she was a founding member), to mark her retirement from the stage in June 2003; and Henri Szeps, with the Henri Szeps Room.[5]

The Sandra Bates Director's AwardEdit

Incoming artistic director Mark Kilmurry initiated the Sandra Bates Director's Award (SBDA) in honour of Sandra Bates, who held the position for 30 years before her retirement[6] in 2015.[3] The award is sponsored by the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation.[7]

Winners of the award include:

  • 2016: Priscilla Jackman and Janine Watson[7]
  • 2017: Francesca Savige and Shaun Rennie[7]
  • 2018: Liz Arday and Felicity Nicol[8]
  • 2021: Ursula Yovich[9]
  • 2022: Danielle Maas and Sophie Kelly[6]

Notable productionsEdit

As of 2016 the most successful play in the theatre's history was Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, a two-hander which in 2006 paired Todd McKenney, in his first non-musical play, with Nancye Hayes.[10] The pair reprised these roles ten years later, reuniting with Sandra Bates in her final directorial role.[11][12] The play was taken on tour, in collaboration with Christine Dunstan Productions, and won the 2007 Helpmann Award for Best Regional Touring Production.[13]

In 2016, the company produced the Sydney premiere of Jane Cafarella's e-baby, a two-hander "quietly feminist play that asserts a heartfelt approach towards matters of infertility, adoption and motherhood."[14] Caferella's first full-length play[15] which was world premiered in 2015 at the Chapel Off Chapel theatre in Melbourne.[16] The production was directed by Nadia Tass, and starred Danielle Carter and Gabrielle Scawthorn; Carter and Scawthorn were described as bringing "such life to their roles" and being "utterly believable – in equal parts loveable and frustrating – [so that] the heartbreak, when it comes, is visceral".[17] Tass, described e-baby as "a play for today – the advances in medicine create a new world that allows new possibilities – in e-baby we enter that world and explore the raw truth, the unbridled joy and the paradox of surrogacy through a carefully woven story of love, generosity and a newborn child."[18]


  1. ^ "Ensemble Theatre 2014 season: The Ensemble unveils a season a blockbusters". Time Out Sydney. 25 November 2013. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  2. ^ "About Ensemble". Archived from the original on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Sandra Bates to Retire From Ensemble". Stage Whispers. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  4. ^ "Coronavirus Info".
  5. ^ "About Bayly's Restaurant". Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  6. ^ a b Wild, Stephi (18 February 2022). "Danielle Maas And Sophie Kelly Awarded Ensemble Theatre's 2022 Sandra Bates Director's Award". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  7. ^ a b c "The Sandra Bates Directors Awards". Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation. 1 March 2018. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  8. ^ "2018 Sandra Bates Director's Award recipients announced". Ensemble Theatre. 6 November 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  9. ^ "Ursula Yovich awarded Ensemble Theatre's 2021 Sandra Bates Director's Award". Australian Arts Review. 13 November 2020. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  10. ^ Huntsdale, Justin (17 February 2016). "Theatre legends Todd McKenney and Nancye Hayes unite for heart-warming play". ABC News. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  11. ^ Hallett, Bruce (13 February 2006). "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  12. ^ Hook, Chris (3 February 2016). "Ten years later, McKenney and Hayes bring Six Dance Lessons play back for another spin on stage". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  13. ^ "Helpmann Awards – Past nominees and winners". Helpmann Awards. 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  14. ^ Tobin, Patricia (16 March 2015). "Review: e-baby". performing.artshub.com.au. Performing Arts Hub. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  15. ^ Blake, Jason (20 October 2016). "E-Baby review: Gestational clock ticks on tale of ethical complexity". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  16. ^ My, Myron (8 March 2015). "REVIEW: Jane Cafarella's E-BABY: A tale of two women". theatrepress.com.au. Theatre Press. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  17. ^ Sebag-Montefiore, Clarissa (27 October 2016). "E-baby review – an endearing but haphazard romp into the complex world of surrogacy". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  18. ^ Tass, Nadia (2016). "Director's Note". In Ensemble Theatre (ed.). Ensemble Theatre Program (13 October 2016 – 13 November 2016): e-baby by Jane Cafarella (PDF). Ensemble Theatre. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2016.

External linksEdit