Matilda’s Doll House


Celebrating more than 25 years of theatrical excellence in southeast Queensland, the annual Matilda Awards have become a prestigious event on Brisbane’s arts calendar. They are awards that allow for recognition of theatre’s diversity …. at QTC and La Boite, host Lucas (The Porter) Stibbard jests. And it’s funny because it’s true, for there is little included acknowledgement of shows from beyond Brisbane’s CBD. But let’s not let the details get in the way of a good story. And the story of the night was most definitely “A Doll’s House” or as Stibbard and co-host Neridah Waters revealed in their honest play posters, ‘No One Looks at Each Other. Forever’.

honest poster

La Boite theatre’s quirky take on Henrik Isben’s classic play took out a swag of awards, including Best Supporting Female Actor (Helen Christinson), Best Supporting Male Actor (Damien Cassidy), Best Lead Female Actor (Cienda McNamara) and Best Director for Steven Mitchell Wright, whose emotional plea to support young, emerging artists captured the passion of those at the forefront of the industry’s continued growth in this state. And it was pleasing to see artists with such altruistic intent represented amongst the five premium (Gold) trophies awarded for outstanding work in any area of the professional theatre industry. (Steven Mitchell Wright was also recognised in this category for directing “A Doll’s House” and directing/designing “Caligula”)

It was not all “A Doll’s House” for La Boite, however, with two of the company’s Indie shows recognised – “Angel Gear” as Best Independent Production and “Machina” as Best New Australian Work, with Sven Swenson also taking out the Best Leading Male Actor award for “Angel Gear” and a Gold Award for co-producing, writing and acting in “Angel Gear” and “Dangerfield Park” and Casey Woods receiving the Best Emerging Artist Award for her performance in “Angel Gear”.

Queensland Theatre Company did receive a look in of sorts, with “Gloria” being named Best Main Stage Production and Simone Romaniuk receiving the Best Design (Set and Costumes) award and a Gold Matilda for her work on “Macbeth” (and “Australia Day”). In a change this year, Design was been split into two categories, with optikal bloc, being named the very deserving recipients of the Best Technical Design Award (Lights, Multimedia and Sound) for their multi-media design of “Pale Blue Dot” and a Gold Award for their projection and video work on “Pale Blue Dot”, “Wuthering Heights”, “Gasp!” and “1984” (even though their work on “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Arts Centre Gold Coast was perhaps their best).


Certainly there were some surprises (like no “Sex with Strangers” awards), but as with any time an industry gets its people together, there were a lot of laughs… about the funding of “Cats”, shake & stir’s success and funding cuts…. the usual fodder. And from the ‘Gold’ start from ‘the Matilda dancers’ to the final Beyoncé medley from some of the “Boy & Girl 2: Mercury Rising” cast, there were many entertaining moments.

boy girl

However, the biggest applause of the night came for the Premier and Arts Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk, and this was before she had even announced restoration of funding for the Awards or hinted at reinstatement of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards. Industry homogenisation concerns aside, perhaps the future is looking bright after all.


 Steven Mitchell Wright

for directing A Doll’s House
and directing/designing Caligula

Tim O’Connor
for realising a new vision for Harvest Rain

optikal bloc
for projection and video work on Pale Blue Dot,
The Mountaintop
, Wuthering Heights,
and 1984

Simone Romaniuk
for designing Macbeth and Australia Day

Sven Swenson
for co-producing, writing and acting in
Angel Gear and Dangerfield Park



Best Mainstage Production
Queensland Theatre Company

Lord Mayor’s Award for Best New Australian Work
(Proudly Sponsored by Brisbane City Council) 
written by Richard Jordan, 
La Boite Indie & MadCat Creative Connections
with the support of QPAC

Angel Gear
Best Independent Production
La Boite Indie & Pentimento Productions
with the support of QPAC

Sven Swenson
Best Male Actor in a Leading Role
Angel Gear

Helen Christinson
Best Female Actor in a Leading Role
A Doll’s House

Damien Cassidy
Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role
A Doll’s House

Cienda McNamara
Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role
A Doll’s House

Steven Mitchell Wright
Best Director
A Doll’s House

Simone Romaniuk
Best Design (Set & Costumes)

optikal bloc
Best Technical Design (Lights, Multimedia & Sound)
multimedia design – Pale Blue Dot

Casey Woods
Bille Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist
for her performance in Angel Gear

Best Musical or Cabaret
Harvest Rain Theatre Company

All dolled up

A Doll’s House (La Boite Theatre Company)

La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre

September 6 – 27

Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” is a classic play, telling the story of how protagonist Nora’s seemingly happy marriage and family life becomes complicated by a series of secrets and lies. (Having broken the law by borrowing money, with forged signature and no male guarantor, she lives in fear of her secret being exposed.) And it is a timeless text for a reason.

“I think the best thing for me to say is as little as possible. I want to allow the work that Ibsen, Lallly [Lally Katz, the show’s playwright], the creatives, crew, cast and myself have done to speak for itself,” Director of “A Doll’s House”, Steven Mitchell Wright notes in his program notes. How odd it is, therefore, to then have the experience of the play hijacked by a final feminist manifesto from a modernised Nora, for while this seminal work has a certain contextual specificity, it also has an intrinsic universality. This is what has made it so enduring. So it in entirely unnecessary to sermonise as a lead-in to Nora’s famous door slam.

That aside, the show’s sterling touches are many. Ever the Steven Mitchell Wright show, the exaggerated, gothic-like aesthetic is rich in the opulence of Tim Burton-esque imagery, realised through internationally renowned Dan Potra’s design. The visual aesthetic is quite magnificent in its melodrama. Strung from the ceiling, the stage rotates though the three acts, tightening around the characters as Nora’s secret web of lies unravels their picture perfect lives.


Victorian in demeanor, the characters are realised in hyper-realism. Hugh Parker is quite beguiling as the domineering, ambitious and moral patriarch Torvald Helmer, as patronising to his wife as the production’s conclusion is to the audience, but very much a product of his time. As his caged hummingbird, no longer singing, Nora (Helen Christinson) is presented as precious and porcelain-like, but broken (much like the three-legged chairs that corner the stage), all dolled up and delicate in her pink doily dresses.


Chris Beckey as Nils Krogstad, from whom Nora has borrowed the money, is a compelling villain, equal parts cartoonish and evil and his scenes with Cienda McNamara as Nora’s tough, world-wise friend Kristine are appealing in their comfort, despite the lack of eye contact or genuine interaction that characterises virtually all of the show’s dialogue delivery.


Ibsen’s text is one of the most performed plays in the world (his global popularity, it has been said, is second only to Shakespeare’s). As important as conversations about feminism are, however, “A Doll’s House” is about so much more than this. Despite its focus on Torvald and Nora’s spousal relationship, its themes regarding the loss of identify are relevant to any relationship. Indeed, Ibsen himself didn’t see his play as feminist; he saw it as humanist. He thought every person, man and woman, had a right to be who they wanted to be. Thus, the show should be about universal happiness more than feminist realisation. And to distrust the audience with this, not only undermines the show’s earlier sophistication, but disrespects the intellect of its members.