Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Theatre: The 2012 Turnstile Awards

This year’s Turnstile awards ceremony was a glittering affair in the Bill Walker Room at Subiaco Oval, immediately after the Dockers v Melbourne game on September 1. If a crowd won’t come to you, you should go to a crowd.
MC George Clooney warms up the
crowd with some Ben Cousins jokes
Thanks to everyone who attended, and a special thanks to George Clooney for stepping in as master of ceremonies when neither Michael Loney or Stephen Bevis could make it.
The Turnstile Awards for excellence in theatre in Perth are given to outstanding locally mounted stage shows between September and August each year. There’s no set number of Turnstile winners, and no attempt to rank the shows in order of merit.
In the past year, I reviewed 57 eligible productions (up from 34 last year) for either or both The West Australian and this blog. Of course it’s not a completely exhaustive list, and I apologise for the absences. Once again, I didn't consider cabaret, comedy or improv theatre, although there were some very fine productions in those categories, especially at the Fringe and Perth Comedy festivals, which both deserve an honorary Turnstile for the huge contribution they made to the popular arts in Perth this year.
It was was a steady rather than spectacular year, with slightly fewer shows (eight, rather than last year’s ten) collecting a Turnstile. The good news is that those shows I thought well worth seeing (21) substantially outnumbered those I’d have strongly encouraged you to avoid (11) – and there will be shows that didn’t make it to the podium that many of you would have had up there.
In chronological order, here are the productions that were of the highest quality in my opinion and, hence, pick up a Turnstile. :
  • The smashing, laugh-out-loud modern take on The Fall, Adam and Eve, directed by Moya Thomas at the Blue Room, with terrific, inventive performances, especially by St John Crowther and Alicia Osyka in a Laurel and Hardy-like comic pairing.
  • Reg Cribb’s unlovely, memorable The Damned for Black Swan, firmly directed by Andrew Lewis with gripping performances by Amanda Woodhams, Claire Lovering and, especially, Sage Douglas.
  • The imposing, ultimately heartbreaking Who’s Afraid of the Working Class, beautifully and proudly performed by WAAPA Aboriginal Theatre students directed by Rick Brayford.
  • The wonderful, fevered dreamscapes of DNA’s Atishoo, written for kids under six by Rachel Riggs and Adam Bennett, who also performed along with the beguiling Anna Marie Biagioni.   
  • Perth Theatre Company’s unsettling, exciting Blackbird, written by David Harrower and directed by Melissa Cantwell, with fine performances by Humphrey Bower and Anna Houston.
  • Black Swan’s complete and satisfying National Interest, written and directed by Aiden Fennessy, with Julia Blake outstanding and a fine supporting cast.
  • WAAPA’s 2nd and 3rd year music theatre students’ exuberant mid-year production of Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Regal.
  • A rare triumph of theatrical ingenuity in the service of human compassion, Tim Watts, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs’s wonderful It’s Dark Outside for the Perth Theatre Company.
Someone or other on the
Bill Walker Room red carpet
So, it’s been a good year for Black Swan, with two Turnstiles and honourable mentions for three other productions – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, When the Rain Stops Falling and Arcadia. A big year also for WAAPA, with Vernon God Little and Summer of the Seventeenth Doll notable on top of its two Turnstiles. The Perth Theatre Company didn’t miss a trick, with both their eligible productions picking up a Turnstile, but neither of the companies that folded in the last year picked up a gong, although Onward Production’s Private Lives and the Metcalfe Playhouse’s revival of John Aitken's Music from the Whirlwind were fine productions. Not the biggest year for the Blue Room either, with only one Turnstile, although Proximity was a great Fringe experience. No gongs for Deckchair Theatre this time, but three honourable mentions go to their absorbing and entertaining Ingle Knight plays Taking Liberty and The Fremantle Candidate, and Ursula Yovich's tour de force The Magic Hour.
The Tim Watts crew’s audacious whodunit Pollyanna at the Fringe, and Nicole in Red’s feisty fashion and theatre fusion, Tipsy, were other highlights of the year.  
You can read complete reviews of each of the awarded and noted shows by clicking on their title.
Congratulations to the eight Turnstile awardees, and the 13 that cracked an honourable mention – let’s see which of them make the podium at this year’s Perth Equity Guild Awards.
And, finally,  thanks to everyone who visited my little blog over the last year – From the Turnstiles more than double its readership from the year before, and it’s gratifying to know there’s some interest in my humble musings. I'd love to hear your thoughts about the awards, even (especially) if it’s just to bag my choices!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Thanks so much! We've never won an award before. It's a great honour.