Nurturing, developing and touring
Amazing Independent Theatre.

Critical Stages nurtures and supports artists, by developing, staging and touring independent theatre. Our goal is to extend the life of outstanding productions, bringing exceptional experiences to audiences everywhere.

The company was formed in 2005 as an initiative of Darlinghurst Theatre. It has quickly grown to become Australia’s leading producer of touring theatre from the independent theatre sector. In the past eleven years the company has toured productions by some of the country’s leading theatre makers to regional and remote audiences across the country.

Critical Stages is supported by Arts NSW on a triennial grant (currently from 2016-2018), and by the Australia Council through Playing Australia as one of only four companies nationally awarded National Touring Status (2018-2020). It is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, with DGR status and on the Register of Cultural Organisations. The company is based at The Arts Exchange at The Rocks in Sydney and lead by Chris Bendall, CEO, alongside a Board of Directors.

What we Do

Every year Critical Stages:

  • Presents at 70+ regional, remote and metropolitan locations across Australia;
  • Performs to tens of thousands of audience members;
  • Employs over fifty performers, technicians and creative artists;
  • Engages young and emerging and regionally-based artists in skills development workshops, masterclasses, forums and Q and A’s;
  • Mentors NSW-based independent artists through year-round sector development initiatives.


We do this in order to support audiences and artists by:

  • Increasing access for regional audiences to diverse and innovative new performances;
  • Developing opportunities for regional artists to engage in meaningful exchange with touring artists;
  • Engaging new audiences in unique theatrical experiences;
  • Providing professional employment opportunities for outstanding independent  artists;
  • Building a strong and inter-connected, healthy, diverse and vibrant national theatre sector.

Chris Bendall

Director & Chief Executive Officer

Chris has been CEO of Critical Stages since 2014. An award-winning creative producer, director and dramaturg with experience working professionally all across Australia, he has won the WA Equity Awards for Best Director (2009 & 2011) and Best Production (2011) and his production of The Magic Hour was a finalist for The Drover Awards' Tour of the Year (2014). Previous positions include: Artistic Director of Deckchair Theatre (2008-2012); Artistic Director Theatre @ Risk (2001-2007). Awards include the Queen’s Trust Australia & Foundation for Young Australians Centenary Grant (2001) and the George Fairfax Memorial Award for Theatre (2003).

Melanie Carolan

Creative Producer

Mel joined Critical Stages in 2017. She was previously Associate Producer at Griffin Theatre Company, where projects included Angus Cerini’s ``The Bleeding Tree``, directed by Lee Lewis (Winner of the 2016 Helpmann Award for Best Play); Alana Valentine’s ``Ladies Day``; and Justin Fleming’s ``The Literati``, a co-production with Bell Shakespeare. Prior to that, Mel was Griffin’s Administration & Program Coordinator where she oversaw the delivery of Griffin Independent and delivered the Griffin Ambassadors education program. Mel has also worked for Merrigong and has produced at the Old Fitz and PACT.

Olivia Benson

Production Supervisor

Olivia comes to Critical Stages after 6 years of freelance work as a stage manager and audio technician. She has toured nationally and regionally with both Critical Stages and CDP Theatre Producers as well as working for companies such as Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Dance Company, The Joan, Sydney Festival, Australian Theatre for Young People, Sydney Conservatorium of Music and System Sound. Productions she has been apart of include The Secret River, The Harp in the South, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Gruffalo’s Child, Thomas Murray and the Upside Down River, The Dapto Chaser, Georgy Girl the Musical and Muriel’s Wedding the Musical.

Kylie Richards

Financial Officer

Kylie is a finance manager and book-keeper with 5 years experience in the arts sector. She currently works as Finance Manager at Griffin Theatre where she has worked since 2013, and Book-keeper at Monkey Baa Theatre. Previously she was Finance Manager to the Next Stage Recruitment Company for 6 years.

Penny Watts

Producer - Programming and Audience Development

Penny comes to Critical Stages after 5 years as General Manager of Monkey Baa Theatre for Young People, 5 years as Executive Producer of The Really Useful Company Asia Pacific. Prior to that Penny was General Manager for two years for Perth Theatre Company; General Manager at Riverina Theatre Company; Tour Coordinator at Arts on Tour for four years; and Production Manager for Railway Street Theatre Company.

How We Can Help You







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We can help you program outstanding contemporary theatre for your audiences


Keith Irving (Chair)

Mark Thomas (Treasurer)

Chris Drummond 

Alyce Fisher

Anne-Marie Heath

Patricia Gilligan

Rohan Astley

Artistic Advisory Panel

Julian Louis (NSW)

Katrina Douglas (NSW)

Dino Dimitriadis (NSW)

Guy Boyce  (WA)

Julian Hobba (WA)

Elena Carapetis (SA)

Richard Watts (VIC)

Daniel Clarke (VIC)

Jo Thomas (QLD)

Our Partners