Sam Strong has two horses – and divided loyalties – in the race for Best Play at this year’s Helpmann Awards.

Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director Sam Strong has two horses in the race for Best Play at this year’s Helpmann Awards. Strong directed Michael Gow’s Once in Royal David’s City – a co-production between Queensland Theatre and Black Swan State Theatre Company – as well as Jasper Jones – an adaption of Craig Silvey’s novel by Kate Mulvany – for Strong’s former home, Melbourne Theatre Company. Both plays have been nominated in the Best Play at this year’s Helpmann Awards, which will be announced in Sydney on Monday.

“I’m thrilled with the Helpmann nominations for my shows personally, for Queensland theatre generally, and for the arts in Queensland even more broadly,” Strong said. “To have directed two shows out of the four up for best play in the National awards is a great honour, even if it makes my loyalties a little divided on the night!”

Once in Royal David’s City was Strong’s directorial debut for Queensland Theatre and this will be the first time the company has had a nomination for best play in the Helpmanns since 2006, when Gow’s Away was nominated. “This is a clear, well-paced and sensitively directed work, emotionally charged yet marvellously poignant and compassionate,” wrote Limelight reviewer Suzannah Conway. “[Strong] elicits finely realised performances from his cast, while highlighting Gow’s moral questioning of the societal changes that are taking place in our modern world, within a framework of Brechtian philosophy.”

Strong’s success hasn’t been limited to the Best Play category, however, with six nominations going to plays he’s directed. Kate Mulvany has been nominated in the Best New Australian Work category for Jasper Jones, while Anna Cordingley’s design for the play is up for the Best Scenic Design award. Guy Simon was nominated for Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play for his role as the titular character in Jasper Jones while Jason Klarwein is up for Best Male Actor in a Play for his role as Will Drummond in Once in Royal David’s City.

“It’s particularly heartening to see great Queensland artists being recognised on the national stage, including Jason Klarwein’s much deserved nomination for best actor for Once in Royal David’s City and David Morton’s nominations for best new work and best set design for The Wider Earth,” Strong said.

Strong’s debut season for Queensland Theatre has been incredibly successful, having sold the highest level of season tickets since 1998 and will sell more tickets than ever before in the company’s history. “The Arts in Queensland is flourishing,” Strong said, “and I’m so happy that Queensland Theatre is helping drive this dynamic era.”


The 2017 Helpmann Awards will be announced July 24 at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. For the full list of nominations, click here.