We are an improv troupe
Based out of Sydney, Australia, from left to right, the Upper Crass Players are (top row) James Hartley, Jess Murphy, James Shepherd, Emily Tighe, (bottom row) Alice Furze, Brenton Amies, Rosemary Ghazi, and Tommy Green. Photos by Angelica Madani.
Lisa Thatcher wrote about our 2017 Sydney Fringe show A Serious Business that “part of the serious pleasure of A Serious Business is the emphasis each performer places on their role as actor acting. Not only are performances and scenarios very funny, but the role between the actor and the performance is engaging and intimate also...Upper Crass Players is a fun and clever troupe, who know how to have a lot of fun yet keep a tight professional grip on the ruffle that makes improv so light while engaging. I found the time watching far too short, and very funny. This is a charming and warm show that gives off a sense of connection, despite the schizophrenic energies of Improv. A lovely light and fun hour of theatre.”
The Buzz From Sydney wrote about A Serious Business saying “the end result was a lot of fun...the group riffed off each other well...a great way to kick off the night!”
Talking Arts wrote about our 2016 Sydney Fringe show Naughty, Stupid, Sexy that “in terms of creativity, spontaneity and courage I would say Naughty, Stupid, Sexy is a solid show...The troupe are clearly in tune with each others strengths and jump into the story telling with the ease and abandon we would expect when paying to see a long form improvised show...Did they make me laugh? Yes. Were they worth seeing? Absolutely. I will be very excited to see where this group of actors travels to and what they create in the future.”
Molong Online wrote about our 2016 show Packed Lunch that “the fervour and zest of these performers covered all ills. Most importantly, their professionalism shone through...These performers unfailingly accepted and offered more, and it was wonderful to see them supporting each other so wholeheartedly.”
Sydney Arts Guide wrote about Packed Lunch that “the bright cast entertained and amused the crowd...the scenarios presented were cheerfully disconcerting and the responses by the actors from the show’s troupe, The Upper Crass Players, were dramatic, sharp and witty...Their bright performances were the strength of this production...and their enthusiasm, diverse skills and joyous humour were a real delight. They quickly produced dramatic storylines to engage the audience in both a thoughtful and playful experience...Summing up, Packed Lunch was a highly entertaining show. The audience responded well to the talent and vibrancy of the performers.”
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2019 - Ibsen Improvised
Photos by James Shepherd and James Hartley.
World Premiere at Flow Studios, Camperdown 8 June 2019
The bad house. The revenant. The secret vice. Come watch seven actors perform and play with the archetypes, themes, and ideas of one of the greatest modern playwrights Henrik Ibsen. With the help of the audience the performers will create a 60 minute dramatic play before your eyes.
Creators: Atlas Adams and James Hartley
Director: Scott Parker
Cast: Brenton Amies, Alice Furze, Rosemary Ghazi, James Hartley, Katherine Poulsen, Lewis Scamozzi, Emily Tighe
Musician: Kathryn Roberts Parker
Special thanks to Sam Haft, Sydney Actors Association, and Lonie Foote
Theatre Travels wrote “there wasn't any chink in the armour at all. Most impressive was how the show didn't fall into the trap of relying solely on comedy. There were very effective moments of drama, particularly in the climax. The company work off each other flawlessly and quite frankly the show didn't feel improvised 99% of the time.
On questioning the team afterwards, it turns out all they rehearsed was the structure. Understandably so, considering the theatrical conception.
The cast and creatives set themselves a monumental task here, a huge gamble that paid off in the best way possible. They plan to do an entire season down the line, which is cause for celebration and something all theatergoers should endeavour to see. Without a doubt, this is a form of entertainment which should be further developed and seen the world over.”
The Buzz From Sydney wrote “the Upper Crass gang are taking awful liberties with Ibsen and the result? You have to see it.”
2018 - Fragments by maura pierlot
Photos by Angelica Madani. Design by Priyanka Martin.
World Premiere at the Pioneer Theatre, Castle Hill 14-17 November 2018
with the support of the MPS Travel+Tours Award, Capital Arts Patrons’ Organisation, and Creative Partnerships Australia through the Australian Cultural Fund
A new Australian play by Maura Pierlot.
Raw and real. Follow eight teens as they try to find hope and their sense of self in the face of adversity. A performance that will make you think and get you talking.
Director: James Hartley
Designer: Priyanka Martin
Stage Manager/Assistant Director: Gundega Lapsa
Cast: Naomi Belet, Tom Burt, Garyth Holfter, Katie Regan, Lewis Scamozzi, Adrian Sit, Brittany Young, and Antonia Zappia
Mick Donedee (producer) wrote he “was delighted to see a group of talented up-and-coming young actors tonight at the new Pioneer Theatre, Castle Hill, taking on the challenge of performing monologues about personal struggles with problems at home, school and their own self-image and insecurities. I particularly enjoyed the writing of playwright Maura Pierlot who crafted a range of characters we could identify and empathise with. It makes us realise that we probably all have some vulnerabilities that could easily lead to mental health issues if we hide them to gain social acceptance. Congratulations to James Hartley who we know well for his comedy but he directs these monologues with great sensitivity.”
Denise Tart (author) wrote “A cast of eight young actors brought to life a series of moving and often haunting monologues, each dealing with different aspects of youth mental health. The performers hailed from across the country, some with more experience than others, but each gave convincing and compelling performances, particularly given they were all older than the actual characters.
The direction, in the hands of James Hartley, was confident, yet subtle. He coaxed performances from his cast that spanned hilarious to heartbreaking. The decision to keep all the characters (students from the same high school) onstage throughout to witness each monologue was strong. It placed each story firmly in a ‘real’ world and underlined how important the gaze of their peers can be for many young people. The classmates all sat, stood or crouched in the shadows listening to one another, adding dynamism to what could have otherwise been quite a static format. The production was enhanced by a simple, but evocative, even whimsical, set and lighting design.”
2016 - this modern coil by james hartley
Design by Ara Nuri Steel.
World Premiere at the Erskineville Town Hall as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival, 9-10 September 2016
A new Australian play by James Hartley.
Two soldiers stuck in no man's land try to survive the landmines before they annoy each other to death. A dark comedy in the vein of Waiting For Godot and Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead.
Director: James Hartley
Designer: Ara Nuri Steel
Cast: Atlas Adams and Tommy Green
Suzy Wrong wrote "Intelligent, humorous and charming, James Hartley’s This Modern Coil explores our relationship with mortality, through a process that is inevitably philosophical, for an existentialist work that is simultaneously universal and challenging.
The writing operates at several levels of intellect, with some moments proving to be more accessible than others, but even at its most demanding, performers Atlas Adams and Tom Green are able to provide a sense of authenticity that keeps us engaged in their cerebral drama. Both men are gregarious and charismatic, effortlessly funny in a show that is almost always entertaining. Their impressive chemistry secures not only our attention, but also our empathy. They are very likeable characters that never fail to let us see ourselves reflected in all their anxieties and fantasies.
Hartley’s own direction of the work is accomplished, with effective manufacturing of tension through much of the piece...Set and costume design by Ara Steel is creatively and proficiently rendered...There is a depth to This Modern Coil that is very admirably courageous, and balanced with a confident sense of comedy and storytelling, we are lured into a meaningful exchange about the biggest and hardest questions of life, only without the usual feelings of intimidation and alienation.”
The Buzz From Sydney wrote “This Modern Coil intelligently draws inspiration from Schrödinger’s famous theory highlighting the absurdity of multiple-state-physics and then connects it to the modern-day infinite universe theory to blur the lines between what is real and what is simply imagination. With such complicated themes, the dialogue sacrifices a degree of realism but as long as you are prepared to give the play a high level of focus, you’ll be kept interested instead by the cleverly contemplative writing style.
Ara Steel’s set design is impressive in its simplicity, building a stage out of only cardboard that still conveys the quiet, looming danger of a warzone...both Green and Adams are incredible as they present the personification of optimism and pessimism. They are both equally charismatic and charming in their opposing characterization and do a tremendous job...This is a genuinely clever, thought provoking and well-performed play.”
Sydney Arts Guide wrote “for me the enjoyment was in the wit and the characters and the seemingly infinite variety of endings possible each time there was an ending. It’s very funny in places and well interpreted by Atlas Adams as the disarmingly naïve optimist, Booker and Tom Green as the poet and thinker, Zachary.
The actors really have a great rapport from the first time we see them. We immediately understand that they have spent a long time together in war and peace. They have shortcuts to communication and silences are ever-present. As Booker, Adams has a ready smile and a childlike enthusiasm. His physical and emotional foil, Green‘s Zachary is stoic and long suffering. Both actors have good command of the physical aspects of the role and there is some very clever static physical comedy. The cat in the backpack reaction was a highlight for me. They bring voice work with variety and carry and have an excellent command of tempo, a skill honed by their improv work. Green will sometimes react to Adams’ perfectly placed gormless Booker statements with sharp reports or with exasperated silence.
Director James Hartley has guided his cast well through the minefield of inaction and quiet, what actors often call “death on stage, right?”. He has them hold quite a few times and whether the stillness is empty or replete, it has clearly conveyed meaning. Nor does he allow them to overplay the comedy. The wit is all character based and much of it is laugh out loud. But there is a beauty that he allows them to wander into as well...Hartley is also the writer of the piece and it is well plotted, not too obscure and has thematic balance.”
2016-2012 short plays
Short+Sweet Sydney, the largest short play festival in the world:
2016 - “The Bridge Builders” by Simon Godfrey, directed by James Hartley, with Tommy Green and James Hartley. Top 80.
2015 - “So Says the Sea” by Rachel Welch, directed by James Hartley, with Alex Cubis, Aleks Mikic, Petrie Porter, and Maddy Stedman. Top 80, People’s Choice Showcase. Suzy Wrong wrote that “direction is also a highlight in Rachel Welch’s “So Says The Sea”. James Hartley finds nuance in a deceptively simple script, and portrays surprising depth in just ten minutes. His cast is a strong one, especially Petrie Porter and Aleks Mikic who both impress with committed and meaningful interpretations of what could have been quite plain characters.”
2015 - “A Bug’s Rights” by James Hartley, directed by James Shepherd, with Bendeguz Devenyi-Botos, Tommy Green, and James Hartley. Top 80, People’s Choice Showcase.
2014 - “Level 2” by Mike McRae, directed by James Hartley, with Marie Chanel, Bendeguz Devenyi-Botos, Tommy Green, and Ellen Williams. Top 80, Gala Finals. Sydney Arts Guide wrote “thank goodness that the short play “Level 2” was performed before interval on Friday night! I was ready to leave the theatre after the first four plays, and then this brilliant piece, written by Mike McRae, blew my mind! This play is refreshingly original! It was directed with finesse by James Hartley, and performed by a talented team of actors who worked as a tight ensemble...I can’t possibly recreate the hilarity of this play in this review; you will just have to see it at the Grand Final on 23/3/2014 at the Seymour Centre. I will be very surprised if it is not selected!”
2013 - “The Fox and the Hunter” by Simon Godfrey, directed by James Hartley, with Tommy Green and James Hartley. Top 80, People’s Choice Showcase, Gala Finals, Best Director, Best Writer, Best Actor (Green). Shit On Your Play wrote that “the night's winner surely has to be “The Fox and The Hunter” written by Simon Godfrey, directed by James Hartley and performed by Hartley and Tom Green. This was by far the most engaging and skilled piece on offer. Actors managed to tilt the audience's expectations many times throughout the play's allocated 10 minutes and I see a bright future for these young men.”
2012 - “Rebel Hell” by James Hartley, directed by James Hartley, with Elena Burger, Jimi Elwell, David Hines, and Brian Webb. Top 100.