Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Turnstile Awards 2014

Brian May from Queen (r. obscured) congratulates 
Shane Adamczak (l. obscured) on his Turnstiles haul

The Turnstile Awards for excellence in theatre in Perth acknowledge outstanding locally produced (or co-produced) stage shows opening 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 56 eligible productions (a few more than last year) for either or both The West Australian and this blog. To those I missed, my apologies.
Overall, shows I thought well worth seeing outnumbered those I’d have strongly encouraged you to avoid by better than two to one – and there will be shows that didn’t make it to the podium that many of you would have had there.
Many might have just needed one more round of inspiration and polish—in writing, direction and production—to achieve their potential; in a year where over half the productions were new scripts, overwhelmingly from independent producers working with limited time and tiny budgets, that’s hardly surprising, and as encouraging as it is frustrating.   
So, here, in chronological order, are the nine local productions I thought earned a Turnstile:

•   Storm Boy, Barking Gecko’s handsome co-production, with the Sydney Theatre Company, of Colin Thiele’s much-loved novel, was another step forward for our most exciting and ambitious main-stage theatre company.

•    The first of an unprecedented Turnstiles trifecta for the outrageously talented writer and actor Shane Adamczak, the bouncy romcom Trampoline at the Blue Room, directed by Damon Lockwood and also starring Amanda Woodhams and the very funny Ben Russell.

•   Midsummer (A Play with Songs) had the most and best laughs of anything Black Swan staged in the past year, thanks to Georgina Gayler and Brendan Hansen’s performances, Damon Lockwood’s direction and David Greig's often hilarious screw-tightening script.

•    In DIVA, the writer and performer Tiffany Barton and director Helen Doig collaborate to tell the story of a fading opera singer with pungency, tempestuousness and ultimate humanity.

•    Adamczak again, this time incredible as Johnny Rotten in Ben Kalman’s Vicious Circles  the sad, brilliantly performed story of the last days of Sid and Nancy, co-produced by WA’s Weeping Spoon and Canada’s Stadium Tour for the Blue Room’s Summer Nights season at PICA. 

•    Pop-up theatre at its best: F*@k Decaf, Tyler Jacob Jones’s café society comedy, sharply directed by Scott Corbett with star turns by Amanda Watson and Ann-Marie Biagioni, at the Mary Street Café on Beaufort St.

•    Declan Greene’s dark comedy Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography may not live up to its name, but it has plenty of hard drive. Perth comedian Andrea Gibbs delivers a performance to be proud of.

•    Kate Mulvany’s savvy adaptation of Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones. Another faultless step on John Sheedy’s mission to grow Barking Gecko from a children’s theatre to one for young people of all ages.  

•    The stand up comedian Greg Fleet’s impressive debut as a playwright, This is Not a Love Song, at the Blue Room, is a sure-fire singalong hit, and more besides. Fleet performs, as does director Tegan Mulvany and, you guessed it, Shane Adamczak.

So two of this year’s Turnstiles have gone to Barking Gecko and three to productions supported and hosted by this year’s big winner, The Blue Room, which also garnered a swag of honourable mentions, for Nina Pearce’s drama of anxiety and ecstasy Broken Colour, the surprisingly powerful 10,000 Beers, Libby Klysz’s nimble, teasing These Guys, Sarah Young’s sombre, deceptively simple Giving Up the Ghosts and Jeffrey Jay Fowler’s clever, dystopic Second Hands and Elephents, the latter directed by Kathryn Osborne, who also tried her talented hand at opera with the snappy, cleverly-designed The Old Maid and the Thief at the Town Hall. Not such a productive year, though, for the tenants of the State Theatre Centre, with only two Turnstiles between them, although Black Swan’s bucolic, attractive As You Like It and Suzie Miller’s clever, mercifully unportentious Dust also deserve a mention.
Couldn’t find a Turnstile for WAAPA this year, but the adventurous, sexy Realism came close.
A number of independent productions, on top of the Turnstile-winning Diva and F*@k Decaf, made a big impression this year. Helen Doig added an honourable mention to her Turnstile for DIVA with Gertrude Stein and a Companion down at the tiny theatre in Media Alliance building in East Perth, James Berlyn’s Crash Course taught its audience a whole new language at PICA and Adam T Perkins delivered a tour de force performance in The Guys at the Subiaco Arts Centre.

You can read what I had to say about each of the nine Turnstile winners by clicking on their highlighted title. You'll find reviews of the honourable mentions elsewhere on this blog.
Congratulations to them all—let’s see which of them make the podium at the next Perth Equity Guild Awards. 

And, finally, thanks to everyone who visited my little blog over the last year – there’s been nearly 100,000 Turnstylists, and it’s gratifying to know there’s some interest in my humble musings (even if many of them, mysteriously, are from Mountain View, California). Please fire in a comment about the awards, even if it’s just to bag them!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the praise and encouragement, David. I appreciate it very much!