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.

hosts

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).

carol

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”.

dash

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.

Pillowman

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

2015 GOLD MATILDA AWARD

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

 2015 SILVER MATILDA COMMENDATIONS

Brisbane
Best Mainstage Production
Queensland Theatre Company

Brisbane
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
Brisbane

Libby Munro
Best Female Actor in a Leading Role
Grounded

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)
Dracula

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

Another bloody (good) classic

Dracula (shake & stir theatre co & QPAC)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

August 13 – September 4

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‘Another bloody classic’ is how shake & stir’s “Dracula” has been aptly marketed. And certainly there is a lot of blood in the company’s retelling of Bram Stoker’s now legendary 1897 novel. But there is also much more as the multi-award winning company brings a finesse to the fright.

“Dracula” represents shake & stir’s most technical show, a fact that that is easily appreciated upon view of the stage. However, this is a view not granted upon entry into the theatre whose stage remains shrouded in misty darkness until the show begins with the boom of the vampire’s menacing prologue. Indeed, this is a “Dracula” full of atmosphere thanks to its bold staging and Guy Webster’s electrifying, eerie sound design. Lighting represents some of Jason Glenwright’s best work. As white light pours through windows and doors to puncture the darkness, a sense of space is created that belies that Cremorne theatre’s small stage. Of most significance, however, is the versatility afforded by use of a large revolving stage, complete with tall stairwell to assist in creating a range of settings, including some for conversations high above the audience. Leigh Buchanan’s costumes, heavy in ornamentation and layers, also contribute considerably to the authentic aesthetic. And Dracula’s coat is simply majestic and sure to be the envy of everyone with a Gothic sensibility.

No member of the cast disappoints. As Jack Seward, Ross Balbuziente delivers the appropriately formal dialogue with aplomb and when attacked by Dracula, Lucy (Ashlee Lollback) and Mina (Nellie Lee) respond with reactions that represent fusion of fear and desire, in keeping with the reading of the text’s portrayal of vampirism as a metaphor for sexuality in the repressive Victoria era in which the novel was written. However, ultimately this is Nick Skubij’s show, despite being barely present in the second half of the play. The portrayal of one of the most famous characters in popular culture, could easily tip into the territory of parody, however, this is far from the case. His performance as a brooding, sinister title character and primary antagonist is entirely riveting, adding a fearful chill to the show’s highly-charged atmosphere as he creeps around the darkened corners of the stage, sometimes appearing in the glimmer of half-light as if from nowhere to startle the audience and characters alike.

The story is of young lawyer Jonathan Harker (Tim Dashwood) who visits Castle Dracula in the Carpathian Mountains. Alone and trapped within the castle walls, he discovers that his host Dracula wants more than just his presence at the dinner table. Leaving Jonathan and his castle behind, Dracula travels to London on a quest for seduction, true love and above all blood. And while remaining true to its origins, this “Dracula” is a mastery of theatrical momentum, emphasising intense emotion as the source of aesthetic experience as it brings to life the moments so vividly described in the novel. The suspense, although prevailing, is tempered by some superbly choreographed action, including a fantastic fight scene, and there are even some surprise comic comments courtesy of David Whitney’s deadpan delivery of Van Helsing’s observations.

Although Bram Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, to the risk of audience members being potentially de-sensitised to the story’s original horror. However, this is a risk without realisation in this version, which is, rather, a fitting, gripping tribute to this classic Gothic text. The production is uncompromising and uncomfortable (#inagoodway). The design is stylish, yet also conveys an overwhelming horror to creep into your bones, sure to satisfy audience members wishing to sink their teeth into this flirtation with the dark side. And it is easy to see why the season has already been extended, including for a unique midnight show experience (#ifyoudare).