The 2018 Matilda Awards were announced last night at the Brisbane Powerhouse, with two productions sharing the honour of Best Mainstage Production. Prize Fighter, which premiered at the 2015 Brisbane Festival in a production by La Boite Theatre Company and has since played the Sydney Festival, returned to Brisbane last year as part of a three-month national tour. It shares the award for Best Mainstage Production with The Longest Minute, a co-production between Queensland Theatre, JUTE Theatre Company and debase productions, which received a glowing five-star review from Limelight when it played in Brisbane last year.

Matilda AwardsGideon Mzembe and Pacharo Mzembe in Prize Fighter. Photo © Brett Boardman

The judges acknowledged Prize Fighter – the first full-length play by Congolese-Australian playwright Future D. Fidel – for its further development “that has refined it into a powerful theatrical work of excellence. The urgent heart of this production explores the compelling story of a Congolese refugee, haunted by his past as a child soldier, as he fights to build a future in Brisbane,” they said, while The Longest Minute, written by Robert Kronk and Nadine McDonald-Dowd, was acknowledged as “an excellent collaboration between Jute, debase and Queensland Theatre, fully immersing a diverse audience in the world of sport and theatre. By capturing attention through a uniquely local premise, this play sneaks up on us to explore underlying social, cultural and gender themes within its compelling story.”

Chenoa Deemal and cast members of The Longest Minute. Photo © Queensland Theatre

“All elements of both productions were consistently outstanding and worked harmoniously to deliver theatre of excellence,’ the judges said.

Best Female Actor in a Leading Role went to Noni Hazlehurst for her performance in Daniel Keene’s one-woman play Mother at QPAC, while Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role went to Andrea Moor for Queensland Theatre’s Hedda.

Paul Bishop won Best Male Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in Lot Vekemans’ Poison, while Jackson McGovern won Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in the children’s opera The Owl and the Pussycat, for which Penny Challen won Best Costume Design.

Flipside and Metro Arts’ We Live Here won Best Circus or Physical Theatre Work while its directorial team, Natano Fa’anana and Bridget Boyle, won Best Director. The Sound of a Finished Kiss, a collaboration between Now Look Here and Electric Moon, picked up the awards for Best Independent Production and Best Musical or Cabaret.

A Christmas Carol, which led the nominations, picked up two awards, with Craig Wilkinson winning Best Video Design and Josh McIntosh winning Best Set Design.

Transmedia performance work Crunch Time, co-commissioned by Media Arts and the Next Wave Festival, took out the Lord Mayor’s Award for Best New Australian Work.

David Walters won Best Lighting Design for Queensland Theatre’s Nearer the Gods, while Best Sound Design/Composition went to Babushka for Happily Ever After.

The Bille Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist went to Carly Skelton for her role as Harriet in The Hatpin, while lighting designer Christine Felmingham received the inaugural Emerging Female Leader Award, which includes a $1,000 cash prize sponsored by the Brisbane Women Arts Leadership Group, which will work with Felmingham to develop a 12-month program of mentoring and development.

DeBase Productions has been honoured with the 2018 Gold Matilda Award, for the company’s “commitment to making theatre of excellence in Queensland for over 20 years, touring nationally and internationally, focusing on the use of comedy to address social issues in a way that is in tune with their target audience.”