Queensland Theatre Company’s production of Ladies in Black has claimed one of the most coveted gongs at the Helpmann Awards.
The Helpmann Awards — named in honour of legendary Australian theatre personality Sir Robert Helpmann — are Australia’s most prestigious awards for live entertainment.
Ladies in Black — written by Carolyn Burns and directed by Simon Phillips, with original music by Tim Finn — took out the award for Best New Australian Work.
The show originated at Brisbane Airport, where Finn picked up a copy of author Madeleine St John’s The Women in Black, and was so inspired that he began writing music for a theatrical adaptation of the novel on his flight. He called Simon Phillips to plant the seeds for the production, and Ladies in Black eventually made its world premiere at QPAC’s Playhouse last November, before travelling to Melbourne.
The show will return for encore seasons in Brisbane and Melbourne in 2017, as well as its first seasons in Sydney and Canberra.
The production wasn’t the only Queensland winner, either. Brisbane Baroque took out the Best Opera award for Agrippina, and the show’s stars, João Fernandes, Keri Fuge and Carlo Vistoli, all took out performance awards.
Brisbane-based circus company Circa also took home two awards. Their production for Brisbane Festival, Il Ritorno, won for Best Physical Theatre Production, and their collaboration with French Baroque won the Best Chamber and/or Instrumental Ensemble Concert award.
Queensland performers and productions were nominated for 32 awards, in total, and ended up winning seven of them.
Perhaps the most meaningful award of the night went to Stephen Page, the artistic director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre for the last 25 years, who was given the 2016 JC Williamson Award for outstanding contribution to the enrichment of Australia’s live performance culture.
Page was presented the award by his son, actor Hunter Page-Lochard, and dedicated it to his late brothers, David and Russell.
David Page, who was the music director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, passed away unexpectedly in April.
Tim Minchin, who won the award for Best Original Score for his work on Matilda the Musical, also paid tribute to David Page in his acceptance speech.
“I want to honour David Page who was an incredible man, an incredible composer, sound designer, actor, singer and breaker-down of boundaries and hurdles and I just want to acknowledge the loss to the Page family and Bangarra,” Minchin said.
Matilda was the biggest winner on the night, taking out a record 13 awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction, Best Choreography and Best Music Direction, as well as a slew of performance and technical awards.
Matilda the Musical is a Royal Shakespeare Company production, but despite its international pedigree, producer Louise Withers proudly pointed out that the musical has employed 200 Australian artists, crews, musicians and technicians.
Matilda the Musical will come to Brisbane in November, playing QPAC’s Lyric Theatre.
The awards ceremony even found time to honour Prince. The late, great music legend took out the award for Best International Contemporary Concert for his Piano and a Microphone tour.
For the full list of winners, visit helpmannawards.com.au.