July 27, 2015
He was at the centre of a cultural spat over “bogans and third-generation morons”, but Leo Schofield had the last laugh at the Helpmann Awards, with an opera from his Brisbane Baroque festival beating Opera Australia to the coveted best opera award.
Faramondo – which won five awards on Monday night, including best opera and best direction –was performed as part of the Queensland event, which was moved from Hobart by artistic director Schofield after the Tasmanian government cut the festival’s funding by 25 per cent.
Schofield, who recently moved back to Sydney after 10 years in Tasmania, went on to call the Apple Isle a “land of dregs, bogans and third-generation morons” and said his experience there was “probably the unhappiest episode of my life”. He later apologised for his remarks.
Sydney theatre companies were also left cheering after the awards recognising achievement in the performing arts, sweeping all of the theatre category.
Belvoir won best play for The Glass Menagerie, Kip Williams scored best director for the Sydney’s Theatre Company’s production of Suddenly Last Summer, while Hugo Weaving won best actor for STC’s Endgame, Pamela Rabe best actress for The Glass Menagerie, John Bell best male supporting actor for Bell Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Helen Thomson for best supporting actress in STC’s After Dinner.
Melbourne Theatre Company had six nominations in the theatre category – for What Rhymes With Cars and Girls and Marlin, a co-production with Arena Theatre Company, but walked away with no trophies (the Malthouse had two nominations).
The MTC won two awards in the musical category, for best direction and best musical direction, for its co-production with John Frost of Once.
Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s revival of Les Miserables, which opened in Melbourne last year and is now showing in Sydney, won five awards, including best musical, best actor for Simon Gleeson and best supporting actress for Kerrie Anne Greenland, starring in her first professional role.
Despite losing out to Faramondo for best opera, Opera Australia was recognised for its co-production of The Rabbits (coming to the Melbourne Festival in October) with Barking Gecko Theatre Company (best presentation for children, best costume design and best original score and best new Australian work) and for its co-production of the musical Anything Goes with John Frost, which won for best actress in a musical for Caroline O’Connor, best supporting actor for Alex Rathgeber and best choreography.
The Sydney Dance Company also dominated, with their work Frame of Mind winning best ballet or dance work and best choreography for Rafael Bonachela, while Chloe Leong and Cass Mortimer Eipper won best female and male dancer for the company’s production of William Forsythe’s Quintett.
In the contemporary music category, Sydney’s Vivid Live was named best music festival, while Melbourne musician Chet Faker scored for best Australian concert and British singer songwriter Ed Sheeran won best international concert.
In the comedy category, Judith Lucy won for her Ask No Questions of the Moth, her first solo show in three years and based on a “magnificently terrible” 2014.
Camille O’Sullivan won the cabaret category with her show Changeling at Arts Centre Melbourne.
with Debbie Cuthbertson