Sydney Theatre Company took home the lion’s share of honours tonight at the 2018 Sydney Theatre Awards. Kate Mulvany’s sweeping, epic adaptation of Ruth Park’s beloved trilogy of novels, The Harp in the South: Part One and Part Two, saw STC pick up three major awards – Best Mainstage Production, Best Direction of a Mainstage Production (Kip Williams), and Best New Australian Work (Mulvany).
Ben O’Toole and Rose Riley in Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Harp in the South © Daniel Boud
Its bold, eerily prescient production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui saw the company win a further four awards. Hugo Weaving’s bravura performance in the title role saw him named Best Male Actor in a Leading Role, with Mitchell Butel’s comic turns as a wannabe Shakespearean theatre director and slimy businessman winning him Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role. Robert Cousins’ spare yet slick design, incorporating a large screen on which live video was shown, saw him awarded Best Stage Design, with Best Sound Design going to Stefan Gregory for his driving, energetic music.
Elsewhere, STC’s season opener Top Girls saw Kate Box’s memorable performances as a 19th-century explorer and a 1980s working-class single parent win her Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role. Top Girls also saw Renée Mulder take home Best Costume Design of a Mainstage Production. For her work on Blackie Blackie Brown, Verity Hampson won Best Lighting Design of a Mainstage Production, while William Barton’s hauntingly magisterial score for The Long Forgotten Dream saw him win Best Original Score of a Mainstage Production.
Kate Box as in STC’s Top Girls. Photograph © Brett Boardman
Only one mainstage gong was awarded to somebody outside of STC – Claire Lovering’s hugely funny, intense performance in Griffin Theatre Company’s The Feather in the Web saw her named Best Female Actor in a Leading Role.
In the independent categories, Apocalypse Theatre Company and Red Line Productions’ Metamorphoses took home four awards – Best Direction of a Mainstage Production (Dino Dimitriadis), Best Costume Design (Jonathan Hindmarsh), Best Lighting Design (Benjamin Brockman) and Best Sound Design (Ben Pierpoint).
A pacy, clever updating of Chekhov’s The Seagull, New Theatre’s Stupid Fucking Bird, was awarded Best Independent Production, with Annie Stafford’s Masha winning her Best Female Supporting Actor in an Independent Production.
New Theatre’s Stupid Fucking Bird. Photo © New Theatre
Other performance honours went to Nikki Shiels, named Best Female Actor in a Leading Role for Daniel Schlusser Ensemble’s They Divided the Sky. For his theatrical debut in Outhouse Theatre Co’s The Flick, Justin Amankwah picked up Best Male Actor in a Leading Role and Best Newcomer, while Damon Manns won Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role for Outhouse Theatre Co’s The Rolling Stone.
In the musical categories, LPD and Hayes Theatre Co’s Cry-Baby took out Best Musical. It also won Best Direction of a Musical (Alexander Berlage), Best Stage Design of an Independent Production (Isabel Hudson), and Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Musical (Ashleigh Rubenach).
Blue Saint Productions’ In the Heights, which just had a limited return season as part of Sydney Festival, received three awards. Ryan Gonzalez won the Judith Johnson Award for Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Musical, Lucy Bermingham won Best Musical Direction of a Musical, and Amy Campbell received Best Choreography in a Musical.
Anne Garefino, Scott Rudin, Important Musicals and John Frost’s The Book of Mormon saw two of its stars take home awards – Zahra Newman received Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical, while Rowan Witt took home Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical.
Zahra Newman in Book of Mormon. Photo © Jeff Busby
The award for Best Cabaret Production went to Omar Musa for Since Ali Died, currently touring in a return season with Sydney Festival. First premiered at Griffin Theatre Company as part of the inaugural Batch Festival, Musa combines spoken word, song and rap in a feat of compelling personal storytelling.
Best Production for Children or Young People went to Monkey Baa’s Josephine Wants to Dance, based on the book by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley.
Finally, the award for Lifetime Achievement was given to Robert Love AM, Director of Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. An established champion of the arts in Western Sydney, his nearly 50-year career began as trainee director for the Old Tote and ATYP. He founded Toe Truck Theatre in 1976, a theatre-in-education company. Love has since held the position of General Manager at the Seymour Centre, State Theatre Company of South Australia and Sydney Theatre Company. He was appointed to his current role at Riverside Theatres in 2000.
The Sydney Theatre Awards are presented annually by a group of leading theatre critics to celebrate the strength, quality and diversity of theatre in Sydney. The panel consists of Elissa Blake (Audrey Journal), Jason Blake (Audrey Journal), Deborah Jones (The Australian), John McCallum (The Australian), Joyce Morgan (The Sydney Morning Herald), Ben Neutze (Time Out), John Shand (The Sydney Morning Herald), Diana Simmonds (Stagenoise), Cassie Tongue (Time Out), Suzy Wrong (Suzy Goes See) and Limelight’s Editor Jo Litson.