Ashleigh Wilson, Matthew Westwood
July 28, 2015
Kate Miller-Heidke’s ascendancy in the opera world gathered pace last night as her genre-bending show The Rabbits stood tall at the Helpmann Awards in Sydney.
The Rabbits, a joint effort led by Opera Australia and Perth’s Barking Gecko Theatre Company, won all four awards for which it was nominated, including best new Australian work.
The ceremony was otherwise dominated by two very different productions that shared five awards each: Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Miserables and the Brisbane Baroque presentation of Handel’s Faramondo.
Les Miserables went home with awards for best musical and best male lead (Simon Gleeson), among others, while Faramondo won best opera, best direction and three awards for singers.
Arts Minister George Brandis, two months after alarming the sector with an overhaul of funding, was in the audience at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre last night.
Before the ceremony, Mr Brandis told The Australian that the objections to his National Program for Excellence in the Arts were predictable from those whose “sense of entitlement” had been disturbed.
“But I have had a very strong positive response from the very people whose interests this program is designed to advance, and that is people who feel excluded from the status quo,” he said.
Clare Bowditch was on hand to pay tribute to Paul Kelly, winner of the JC Williamson award, recognising individuals who make an outstanding contribution to the performing arts.
With the exception of the State Theatre Company of South Australia, which won best scenic design for Little Bird, and Bell Shakespeare, which took home best supporting actor for John Bell, the main theatre honours were shared between Sydney’s two largest theatre companies. Belvoir won best play, for The Glass Menagerie, for which Pamela Rabe was named best female actor.
Sydney Theatre Company won three awards, including best direction (Kip Williams for Suddenly Last Summer) and best male actor, for Hugo Weaving for Endgame.