Little Shop of Horrors, Antigone, The Drover’s Wife and Faith Healer win 22 of the 35 awards presented.

Four productions dominated the 2016 Sydney Theatre Awards: the Hayes Theatre Co’s Little Shop of Horrors with eight awards, Sport for Jove’s Antigone with seven, Belvoir’s The Drover’s Wife with four, and Belvoir’s Faith Healer with three, while Sydney Theatre Company went home empty-handed.

Leah Purcell in The Drover’s Wife at Belvoir. Photo by Brett Boardman

Announced on Monday January 20 at the York Theatre, Seymour Centre, having outgrown their previous home at the Paddington RSL, the Sydney Theatre Awards presented 35 awards across 15 productions.

The Drover’s Wife, Leah Purcell’s retelling of Henry Lawson’s story – described by its director Leticia Caceres as “a rough-edged stone cast straight into the heart of the colonisation story” – was named Best Mainstage Production. It also took home Best New Australian Work, Best Direction of a Mainstage Production (Caceres) and Best Score or Sound Design of a Mainstage Production (The Sweats).

Sport for Jove’s Antigone, featuring a new, contemporary adaptation by Damien Ryan, which brought conflict zones in Syria and Iraq to mind, dominated the Independent categories. As well as winning Best Independent Production, Antigone took home Best Direction of an Independent Production (Ryan and Terry Karabelas), Best Female Actor in a Leading Role (Andrea Demetriades), Best Male Actor in a Leading Role (William Zappa) and Best Lighting Design (Matt Cox), while Melanie Liertz took home awards for both Best Costume Design and Best Stage Design of an Independent Production.

Andrea Demetriades with Thomas Royce-Hampton and Anna Volska in Antigone. Photo by Marnya Rothe

The Hayes Theatre Co’s production of the Alan Menken/Howard Ashman musical Little Shop of Horrors was the most awarded production of the night with eight gongs. Coming close to a clean sweep in the Musical categories, it won Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Dean Bryant), Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Musical (Esther Hannaford), Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Musical (Brent Hill), Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical (Scott Johnson) and Best Choreography in a Musical (Andrew Hallsworth). It also won Best Stage Design of a Mainstage Production (Owen Phillips) and Best Costume Design of a Mainstage Production (Tim Chappel).

The three actors in Belvoir’s production of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer, directed by Judy Davis, all took home Mainstage acting awards: Colin Friels as Best Male Actor in a Leading Role, and Alison Whyte and Pip Miller as Best Actors in Supporting Roles. Marta Dusseldorp won Best Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Mainstage Production for her performance as a celebrated actor whose mind unravels in Benedict Andrews’ dark, intriguing new play Gloria staged by Griffin Theatre Company.

Esther Hannaford and Brent Hill in Little Shop of Horrors. Photo by Jeff Busby

Jimmy Barnes was a surprise, but enthusiastically received, winner of Best Cabaret Production for his show Working Class Boy: An Evening of Stories and Songs, which he performed at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. Best Production for Children was won by Monkey Baa’s The Peasant Prince, while Best Production for Young People went to atyp for Spring Awakening.

Actor Judi Farr was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Her 40-year career has seen her perform at virtually every major Australian theatre company from the Old Tote and Nimrod to Sydney Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre Company, State Theatre Company of South Australia and Belvoir, among others. Some of her memorable credits include Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman opposite Warren Mitchell and Mel Gibson for Nimrod, Angels in America, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Women of Troy for Sydney Theatre Company, Cloudstreet for Belvoir, and Miss Marple in A Murder is Announced. She has also appeared in innumerable television shows from Number 96 to Mother and Son to A Place to Call Home.

Judi Farr as Miss Marple for A Murder is Annouced

The Australian‘s theatre critic John McCallum, who presented Farr with her Award, described her as having “an astonishing ability as an actor to be both mischievous and serious at the same time”, adding, “she can make you laugh and cry.”

Greeted with a sustained standing ovation, Farr, who had a stroke in 2016, said that she had decided “now was the time to out my new face – this is a challenge I am now accepting.” Delivering an eloquent and moving speech,  Farr thanked her family, friends and mentors. She acknowledged that critics have an important role to play but ended by saying: “If actors are wise they do not read reviews!”

This year, the Awards shone a light on people working behind the scenes by having stage managers present the Awards with actors and directors. The evening began with David Whitney, Kurt Phelan and an ensemble performing the number A Musical from Something Rotten!.  Ben Hall and David Campbell sang the title song from the Australian musical Only Heaven Knows by Alex Harding, which is being staged at the Hayes Theatre Co this year in celebration of its 30th anniversary, while Robyn Archer performed Stephen Foster’s Hard Times Come Again No More, a number from her show The (Other) Great American Songbook, which she performs for Griffin Theatre Company in July.

The Sydney Theatre Awards are presented every year by a group of leading theatre critics to celebrate the strength, quality and diversity of theatre in Sydney. The panel consists of Elissa Blake (Fairfax), Jason Blake (Fairfax), Dee Jefferson (Time Out), Deborah Jones (The Australian), Jo Litson (The Sunday Telegraph/Limelight), John McCallum (The Australian), Ben Neutze (Daily Review), Diana Simmonds (Stage Noise), Polly Simons (Daily Telegraph) and Cassie Tongue (AussieTheatre/The Guardian).


WINNERS OF 2016 SYDNEY THEATRE AWARDS

BEST MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION

The Drover’s Wife (Belvoir)

BEST INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

Antigone (Sport for Jove)

BEST DIRECTION OF A MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION

Leticia Caceres (The Drover’s Wife)

BEST DIRECTION OF AN INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

Damien Ryan and Terry Karabelas (Antigone)

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION

Marta Dusseldorp (Gloria)

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION

Colin Friels (Faith Healer)

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN AN INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

Andrea Demetriades (Antigone)

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN AN INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

William Zappa (Antigone)

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION

Alison Whyte (Faith Healer)

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION

Pip Miller (Faith Healer)

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

Meredith Penman (The Whale)

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

Thomas Campbell (Three Sisters)

BEST STAGE DESIGN OF A MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION

Owen Phillips (Little Shop of Horrors)

BEST STAGE DESIGN OF AN INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

Melanie Liertz (Antigone)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION

Tim Chappel (Little Shop of Horrors)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF AN INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

Melanie Liertz (Antigone)

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION

Matt Cox (Lake Disappointment)

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF AN INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

Matt Cox (Antigone)

BEST SCORE OR SOUND DESIGN OF A MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION

The Sweats (The Drover’s Wife)

BEST SCORE OR SOUND DESIGN OF AN INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

Nate Edmonson (Good With Maps)

BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK

Leah Purcell (The Drover’s Wife)

BEST NEWCOMER

Jonny Hawkins (Relatively Speaking)

BEST ENSEMBLE

Broken (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

BEST PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

Little Shop of Horrors (Luckiest Productions and Tinderbox Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co)

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL

Dean Bryant (Little Shop of Horrors)

JUDITH JOHNSON AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Esther Hannaford (Little Shop of Horrors)

JUDITH JOHNSON AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Brent Hill (Little Shop of Horrors)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Laura Murphy (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Scott Johnson (Little Shop of Horrors)

BEST MUSICAL DIRECTION

Lucy Bermingham (Spring Awakening)

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A MUSICAL

Andrew Hallsworth (Little Shop of Horrors)

BEST CABARET PRODUCTION

Working Class Boy: An Evening of Stories and Songs (Jimmy Barnes)

BEST PRODUCTION FOR CHILDREN

The Peasant Prince (Monkey Baa)

BEST PRODUCTION FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

Spring Awakening (atyp)

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Judi Farr