Queensland’s Matilda Awards: where to now?

Congratulations to all winners at the 2009 Matilda Awards held on March 2 at Brisbane’s Judith Wright Centre.
Best Mainstage Production: ANATOMY TITUS FALL OF ROME: Queensland Theatre Company
Best Independent Production: HOODS: Real TV
Best Direction: Michael Futcher; RABBIT HOLE Queensland Theatre Company; THE WISHING WELL La Boite Theatre Company
Best Actress in a Lead Role: Helen Howard: RABBIT HOLE: Queensland Theatre Company
Best Actor in a Lead Role: Jean-Marc Russ: I AM MY OWN WIFE: Queensland Theatre Company
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Kaye Stevenson: SUMMER OF THE SEVENTEENTH DOLL: La Boite Theatre Company
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Andrew Buchanan: FEMALE OF THE SPECIES: Queensland Theatre Company
Best New Australian Work: ATTACK OF THE ATTACKING ATTACKERS: Matthew Ryan: La Boite Theatre Company
Best Emerging Artist: Kathryn Marquet: JANE EYRE, BRONTE, RISK
Best Design: Jonathon Oxlade: ATTACK OF THE ATTACKING ATTACKERS: La Boite Theatre Company
Best Technical Design: David Walters: AUGUST MOON Queensland Theatre Company, RABBIT HOLE Queensland Theatre Company; WISHING WELL La Boite Theatre Company
Best Musical Production: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE: Oscar Theatre Company

Hooray for Queensland’s theatre community, and hoorah for the Matilda Awards which support it. However, given some of the comments in Katharine Lyall-Watson’s recent blog post, I’d reckon the awards are ready for a comprehensive review. Herewith my 2c worth.

As I understand it, the Matildas were originally conceived to celebrate Queensland theatre talent. From the list of this year’s nominees, they are clearly Brisbane-centric. This is a real pity, as there is much great work going on outside the capital city of our state.

As to the categories, these are clearly problematical for some, and I include myself in this. The panel of judges which once comprised reviewer-critics (now as I note no longer solely so) have chosen to copy the Green Room and Critics Circle categorisations, themselves a copy of much larger awards. Do we really have the critical mass yet of Melbourne and Sydney to support all of these categories? IMHO, the fewer the awards, the more prestigious and probably, more affordable.

Instead of the constraints of categories, why not simply recognise outstanding practitioners or groups to reflect any aspect of our profession? I understand this used to happen. Whilst I am sure not all would agree, I have a problem separating out male and female actors for awards as outstanding performers, for example.

And finally, putting on my theatre academic’s hat, where do we and those coming after us go to read all about this thing called the Matildas? I did a Google search and was sent to Wikipedia to get some background for this post.  I found an out of date entry at Wikipedia, and nothing more. So I added an external hotlink to Lyall-Watson’s blog post which contains this year’s nominees and the subsequent discussion on the pros and cons of the awards.

I’d like to see the theatre community pitching in by contributing to this entry on Wikipedia. It shouldn’t be a one-person job and it certainly isn’t difficult to do. Wikipedia is intensely democratic and, like the theatre itself, collaborative. Bloopers, glitches, and the like are quickly erased and replaced by others with the right info. It’s another way of endorsing and supporting the theatre, and getting the word out beyond Queensland.

PS Congratulations to all the nominees and thanks to the panel of judges who have worked long and hard to keep the Matildas going. You’re champions all!

PPS What’s the definition of a ‘Mainstage Production’ please? Curious as to its application as a category – presumably the other side of the coin to ‘Independent Production.’

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3 responses to “Queensland’s Matilda Awards: where to now?”

  1. Katherine LW Avatar

    Thanks for this, Kate – great comments and lovely to get your input. Thank you also for getting something onto Wikipedia – much appreciated.

  2. Lewis Jones Avatar

    I have put forward my opinion on a number of occasions that the Matildas would best serve the theatre community by being 5 awards for ‘Outstanding Contributions to Queensland Theatre’ as they originally were.
    It made them unique – as against following the Logies, the Oscars, and interstate awards. And I agree with Kate Foy that Brisbane does not necessarily have the critical mass – pardon the pun – to justify the awards being divided into categories. I also agree that the division on gender lines is surely pretty outdated. Do we divide the Director or Playwright Award on the basis of gender?
    I also think that it is not appropriate to call it a Queensland Award. It is the Melbourne Green Room Awards and the Sydney Critics’ Circle Awards. And I also find it pretty ludicrous that the Helpmann Awards purport to be truly national. The current structure totally precludes the work being done by regional companies such as JUTE and a whole raft of quality work being done in other regional centres. [If ANYone has made a major contribution to Queensland theatre over MANY years it is JUTE Theatre who have worked so tirelessly for what they believe in]
    I do not think that Awards are ever perfect but they – on the whole – are good to recognise achievement. Thanks to those who contribute to the ongoing existence of the Awards – and it is your prerogative to keep the categories structure going – but for mine – I would love to see the Matildas return to being five non-categorised awards for Outstanding Contribution to Brisbane Theatre.

    I would love to hear what others think.


    Lewis Jones
    Artistic Director
    Empire Theatre

  3. Nick Backstrom Avatar
    Nick Backstrom

    I agree that the awards should revert to the old structure. I am not sure why they have gone they way they have as I find it problematical. We don’t have the sheer mass of theatre that other places have to justify splitting into categories. The more categories we have, the more people demand, to have their area of expertise fairly recognised, the more convoluted it all becomes. Not to mention, as Kate rightly points out, the more expensive becomes.

    I also think they should be named Brisbane awards as that is what they cover. I cannot see a way for regional theatre to be properly recognised under the current structure.

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