Brisbane’s Matildas

The 2015 Matilda Awards, held at QUT Gardens Theatre on Monday 29th February, shared more than just their timing with the Oscars, with a razzle dazzle opening number of ‘Viva Brisvegas’ from hosts performer Carita Farrer Spencer and fashion designer Leigh Buchanan in guise as their alto egos Larry Paradiso and Barbra Windsor-Woo and a controversial speech from outgoing committee member and awards co-founder Alison Cotes.


Memorable moments also included, more poignantly, an appropriate standing ovation when celebrated Queensland actress Carol Burns was posthumously awarded the Gold Matilda Award for her contribution to the industry and body of work, including her final performance in Queensland Theatre Company’s “Happy Days”.  At the alternate end of the emotional spectrum, the biggest laugh of the often outrageous night came courtesy of the Lord Mayor Graham Quirk in reaction to the attention of Paradiso. There was also much enthusiasm in response to announcement of the future awards restructure of the technical categories, from beyond just Design (Set & Costumes) and Technical Design (lights, Multimedia & Sound).


Putting aside the recent industry criticism of the awards’ format and judges, big winners on the night included Queensland Theatre Company’s “Brisbane” which took out three categories: Best Mainstage production, Best New Australian Work and Best Male Actor in a Leading Role for Dash Kruck. Kruck’s versatility was acknowledged in his receipt, also, of the Award for Best Musical or Cabaret for his one man show “I Might Take My Shirt Off”.


Also, Gold Coast based Shock Therapy Productions’ “The Pillowman”  took out the win in three categories: Best Independent Production, Best Director for Sam Foster and Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role for Tama Matheson.


Shake & Stir Theatre Company’s “Dracula” was also a repeat winner, taking out both technical categories for set design and lighting.


Carol Burns
for an outstanding performance in Happy Days
and an exceptional body of work


Best Mainstage Production
Queensland Theatre Company

Lord Mayor’s Award for Best New Australian Work
(Proudly Sponsored by Brisbane City Council) 
written by Matthew Ryan

The Pillowman
Best Independent Production
Shock Therapy Productions 
in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse

Dash Kruck
Best Male Actor in a Leading Role

Libby Munro
Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

Tama Matheson
Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role
The Pillowman

Naomi Price
Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Ladies in Black

Sam Foster
Best Director
The Pillowman

Josh McIntosh
Best Design (Set & Costumes)

Jason Glenwright
Best Technical Design (Lights, Multimedia & Sound)
lighting design – Dracula

Georgina Hopson
Bille Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist
Pirates of Penzance & Into the Woods

I Might Take My Shirt Off
Best Musical or Cabaret
QPAC in association with Queensland Cabaret Festival,
Jai Higgs & Dash Kruck

A town in time

Brisbane (Queensland Theatre Company)

QPAC, The Playhouse

April 11 – May 2

“The air is thick and wet and the sun burns your skin like it hates your guts.” From its opening lines, it is clear that “Brisbane” has an endearing authenticity to its representation of the city. Its staging too, is appealing in is actuality, with its split level set showing the detailed under-house of an iconic Queenslander dwelling. Although it is a big set (befitting a big story), it is full of hidden corners, like seeing David Malouf’s “12 Edmondstone Street” brought to life. The result is comforting in its historic nostalgia and interesting in the juxtaposition created between the creative space of its protagonist’s literary imagination and his bleak family life level above.


Set in 1942, a time of street cricket, milkman deliveries and backyard trenches, “Brisbane” tells an epic story of a changing world through lens of 14-year-old Danny Fisher (Dash Kruck) whose pilot brother (Conrad Coleby) has been killed in the bombing of Darwin. As his devastated family unravels, the teen finds a surrogate sibling in the American pilot Andy (also played by Coleby) who is stationed in Brisbane. While the narrative is first and foremost about a family, holistically, the play is about a time of tension when Brisbane went from being a tranquil town to a city worthy of General MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area Allied Forces Headquarters in Queen Street.

As the audience is reminded in the play’s closing moments, “this happened, here, in Brisbane.” And references to the city’s locations, landmarks and institutions abound as Aussie soldiers stand around drinking beer and watching as their women are swept off their feet (quite literally taking flight) by the American GIs with their pleases and thank-yous.


Like all quality theatre, the work becomes a launching pad for much after-show discussion and sharing of stories from the past, with audience members overheard telling others about Cloudland’s coloured history and late night Deen Brothers demolition. Indeed, the show has an appealing authenticity, down to the finest detail, with lighting washing the stage with sepia-tinged warmth and clever use of props and shadow play to conjure images of flying. The soundscape is also noteworthy, especially in Act One’s very funny and inventive newsreel re-enactment.


Characters are archetypally recognisable, like Australians of a bygone “Cloudstreet” era, yet never does it seem like the show is re-treading old ground. QTC has garnered quite the first class cast and although beginning scenes are busy with many characters, key players soon emerge. Chief among them is Harriet Dyer as the feisty, foul-mouthed and excitable Patty, Danny’s best friend, who provides much of Act One’s comedy. As an aspiring writer living in a storyteller’s world in which everything is something else, Kruck also delivers a memorable coming-of-age performance of one who begins with innocence, naivety and enthusiasm, not unlike the city itself in terms of its world stage status.


As his earlier works have shown, Matthew Ryan knows how to write about history (“Kelly”) and can easily bring Brisbane to life (“Boy Girl Wall”) and “Brisbane” triumphs in this combination. Although it is clearly evocative of time and place, it is about sensibility as much as setting and characters. Like a sticky-taped scrapbook of memories, “Brisbane” serves as storage mechanism in which stories can be kept and importantly shared. Although the play’s official U.S. Guide to Australia states that Australians typically look to the future and not back to the past, in this instance, we must be thankful that this is not the case for within the nooks and crannies of our history lurk the most absorbing of theatre tales.