22.9.1940 – 24.2.2007
Welcome to the website that celebrates Lindzee Smith’s life and work and that is the home of the Foundation we have established to honour his memory by supporting initiatives that continue his explorations.
For forty years, El Smythe delved into every shadowy corner of contemporary theatre. A true theatre obsessive, his interests ranged across all facets of dramatic expression, always focusing on finding effective ways of presenting words as actions meaningful in today’s world.
From his first productions with Contact Theatre in the mid to late sixties, through his work with the APG and the Pram Factory in the seventies, to the remarkable output of Nightshift Theatre Asylum over the last thirty years, Lindzee has constantly confronted, shocked and enthralled actors, audiences and critics.
His was not a career that produced mainstream accolades and awards. His sensibility was too fractious and counter-cultural to allow him the comfort of relaxation in the company of the mandarins. Nevertheless, when opportunities appeared - which were not often - he displayed profound talent as an academic and teacher.
But practice was his one true love. To the very end, there were always half a dozen projects swirling around his mind.
He was a director who found his vision through working collaboratively: he had the ability to recognise and make manifest extraordinary capacities in everyone he worked with. This was perhaps his greatest attribute – he encouraged, indeed expected as a matter of course, that those he worked with would find unique solutions to the problems he put before them. His success was that, every time, they delivered.
But the wolf was always at the door, both literally and metaphorically: societies tend to discard their enfant terribles as they age – unless, of course, they settle down, which Lindzee was utterly unable to do. And then there was that other wolf – lupus, an incurable condition that debilitates the immune system and is only manageable with steroids whose long term effects are as vile as the disease itself.
Eventually, Lindzee succumbed to these, but he put up a fight that verged on the miraculous. Only someone of immense will and indefatigable optimism could have survived the trials he was put through. And Lindzee did more than survive. Yes, he had his moments of despair and panic, but even in those last days, he was always ready for another round.
And what of his legacy? Lindzee took the new Australian theatre to the world. In the maelstrom of internationalism that was theatre in the last half of the twentieth century, Lindzee navigated a unique path, mixing it with the pantheon, looking for adventure wherever he went and purloining anything he thought might be useful, but always offering a confident and unapologetic perspective rooted in the soil of his upbringing.
It’s a largely unrecognised legacy, but it permeates much of contemporary theatre, both at home and abroad. The ways of theatre-making that he pioneered have flowered profusely. Perhaps this site will contribute to the recognition of his contribution but more important, may it help to ensure that the attitude he brought to his work continues into new generations.