Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Helpmann nominations

The nominations for the Helpmann Awards, our national awards for the performing arts (yes, I know it's problematic), were announced earlier this week. I read them with lively interest: I was part of this year's theatre panel, and the secret ballot meant that I had as little idea as anyone what the results would be. And they're quite interesting.

In the theatre category, Benedict Andrews' brilliant production of War of the Roses for the STC Actors Company is the dominant note, with a swag of 10 nominations in practically every category. And it's good to see that Food Court by Geelong company Back to Back, which was probably my highlight of last year's Melbourne Festival, has gained some well-deserved notice, with three nominations in the Industry category. Barrie Kosky's production of The Women of Troy, an STC production seen here at the Malthouse, also won three nominations in the theatre category. And - to my surprise and delight - so did Peter Evans's production of David Harrower's Blackbird for the MTC. I'm pleased to see this subtle, modest and passionate production, low on spectacle but high on sheer class, put next to the more obviously significant works.

The full list of nominations can be trawled here. The winners will be announced in Sydney on July 27.


  1. The Helpmann Awards are fine if you can afford the $145 to enter your show into contention.

    They're fine if you're actually a marketing company and less concerned with the art.

    I got a media release for you:

    Funny, and yes, problematic stupid valueless things (unless you consider the poster you can put it on!).

  2. Oh really? I love you bro gets no mention and that vaudeville show does? Holiday gets no mention but Woyzech does? Mortal Engine gets a mention but Sunstruck doesn't?

    I mean, the proof is in the pudding.

    What a joke.

  3. Well... I did say they were problematic. In fact, I think the whole concept of national awards is problematic - unless you can afford to have a panel of judges shuttling between capital cities from Darwin to Hobart. Which is plainly impossible.

    Given this, I don't think the works noted there (at least the ones I've seen) are by any means unworthy. Which is a start.

  4. ...aside from The Gatz, that is, which still gets my Unclothed Emperor vote. But a lot of worthy people disagree with me on that.

  5. Further to discussion: an informative snip from an article for the SMH by Bryce Hallett on the Helpmanns:

    ...the awards event has responded to early criticisms about its complex voting system, anomalies and oversights by streamlining the panels and increasing the voting constituency. There are about 600 voters this year.

    "There has been a lot of fine-tuning and innovations to create a wider appreciation of the awards," says the event's producer, Jon Nicholls. "Everyone who gets nominated goes on the voting collegiate for the following year while the winners get to be on it for three years. It has changed the emphasis to achieve wider peer representation."

    To nominate, producers no longer have to be paid-up members of Live Performance Australia. For $100 a year they can nominate by becoming affiliates of the performance group.
    "We made the change two years ago and opened it up to everybody ... A lot has been achieved but there's an awful long way to go. There's a geographical hurdle but I do believe [that] it's been dissipated and that word-of-mouth about a fine performance, say, in Perth or Adelaide soon gets attention in the east," Nicholls says.

    The Helpmann Awards are inevitably dominated by Sydney and Melbourne, where most theatre practitioners and performers live and where most home-grown touring productions originate. Hobart and Darwin rarely get a look-in.

  6. Utterly pointless and actually almost terrifyingly parochial when compared to what is actually on the cultural menu throughout the year around the country.

  7. Ethel Malley, distressed gentlewoman7:33 pm, July 10, 2009

    I just wish people (e.g. No 2 above) would stop popularising the malapropism "the proof is in the pudding" which is MEANINGLESS. The saying is, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" if you MUST use stale proverbs. The sense OBVIOUSLY is that the only test of a concoction is whether it satisfies its consumers in large numbers. The relevance to the Helpmann Awards is YET TO BE DEMONSTRATED, unless Wicked and Buddy are to win everything. Coming next: "vicious *quote*cycle*unquote*" (WTF?}

  8. Pretty bland pudding nevertheless.

  9. Hi Anon - do tell precisely what is "bland" about The War of the Roses, The Women of Troy or Blackbird. And in relation to what? On the quivive here...

  10. Yes Alison I too would be fascinated to know what the former Anon found "bland" about either War of the Roses, or, for my money, the even more thrilling and immaculately performed "Women of Troy." Is it just the knee jerk reaction of the bottom end of Fringe to refuse to acknowledge any accomplishment in mainstream theatre? Benedict Andrews and especially Barrie Kosky get called many things, bot "bland" must be a first.

  11. Quick quip: the theatre nominations are fantastic - and I do hope War of the Roses gets what it deserves. I am still running into off-handed dismissals of that terrifyingly good show.

    But the dance, for example, is not only Sydney-centric but also really, incredibly bland. The one nomination to Axeman Lullaby saves the nominations from being completely implausible. Looking at them, you'd be forgiven thinking that SDC is the best dance in the country. I suspect the entry fee would have something to do with it... The best dance I saw last year probably cost less than $100.

  12. I still say one of the biggest outrages is that Stephen Schwartz got nominated for best original score. Why would the American composer of a musical that is a carbon copy of the Broadway production get a Helpmann nomination? Especially when fantastic shows such as Metro St don't get a look in!


  13. Christine Mullarvey10:33 am, July 14, 2009

    So Alison, or the various Anonymice, who do you think should win, of the nominees? I didn't see War of the Roses so it makes it a bit hard. The mystery for me was nothing for When The Rain Stops Falling, we loved that when we saw it in Sydney.

  14. Didn't Metro St get a nomination somewhere?

    My bets - and I would think they're pretty safe ones - are on The War of the Roses. But it all depends on the voters: and there are after all 600 of them.

  15. Metro St got a few nominations...

    The surprise for me was that it wasn't mentioned in the best original score category.

    War of the Roses should win. It was an amazing piece of theatre.

  16. It warmed the cockles of my cold and reptilian heart to see The War of the Roses nominated as it was, even if, as a result of spreading out those nominations across the various categories and giving the nominees a better chance,
    Ewan Leslie winds up a supporting actor instead of a lead. (Nick Schlieper should be a shoo-in for the lighting award.) I also remain unconvinved by The Women of Troy, and would have nominated Yael Stone for Frankenstein instead of Scorched, but that's just me picking nits from the monkey.

    Other observations from the other categories. Interesting to see The Navigator nominated for Best Opera, given the not entirely enthusiastic critical response. They should just give Cheryl Barker the award for Best Female Performer in an Opera now and avoid the rush. (She was brilliant in The Makropoulos Secret). It would be nice to see Richard Hickox win Best Musical Direction posthumously.

    And I'm with Jana on the dance and physical theatre nominations. Even if I liked Two Faced Bastard more than she did.