Matildas Shaken and Stirred by theatre group’s golden run

Shake & Stir Theatre company cemented its reputation as one of Australia’s foremost contemporary touring theatre companies after taking out the top gong at Matilda Awards in Brisbane last night.

Feb 18, 2020, updated Feb 18, 2020
Shake & Stir's Ross Balbuziente and Nelle Lee collect the Gold Matilda at Brisbane Powerhouse.

Shake & Stir's Ross Balbuziente and Nelle Lee collect the Gold Matilda at Brisbane Powerhouse.

More than 500 performers, artists and patrons of the arts attended the Matilda Awards ceremony at Brisbane Powerhouse,  hosted by Barbara Lowing and Louise Brehmer and featuring backing from “dirty, flirty, musical cabaret” ensemble Babushka.

In addition to taking out the coveted Gold Matilda at the Queensland performing arts community’s night of nights, Craig Wilkinson and Jon Weber picked up the evening’s first award, Best Video Design, for their work on Shake & Stir’s Fantastic Mr Fox, and Josh McIntosh won Best Set Design for his work on Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts.

Queensland Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch presented the Gold Matilda, which honours an individual, organisation or creative team for their outstanding contribution theatre, and paid tribute to “the incredible quality and breadth of talent in Queensland’s performing arts sector”.

“Congratulations to all the nominees and recipients tonight,” Enoch said. “You make us all incredibly proud.

“Our ability as a society to support cohesion over division, to navigate great change and to imagine the future, depends on the critically important role of the arts.”

Shake & Stir’s Ross Balbuziente, who founded the company almost 15 years ago with fellow artistic directors Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij, told InQueensland the recognition was “a nice cherry on top of what’s been a big 12 months”.

“We don’t do it for the awards, so this is really unexpected,” Balbuziente said. “We do it because this has been our life since 2006 and we wake up every day wanting to do a better job than the day prior.

“But to just have a moment to stop and be acknowledged is really lovely, especially after last year, which was such a big year for the company.  We had a huge national tour of Revolting Rhymes, Fantastic Mr Fox played in the Playhouse at QPAC, we did Jane Eyre with Sarah McLeod and then the return season of A Christmas Carol, plus a New Zealand season of one of our works.”

Queensland Theatre was another of the night’s big winners, with its season of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman named Best Mainstage Production and the company also sharing honours with Brisbane Festival, Belvoir and ATYP in the Best Musical or Cabaret category for Fangirls.

New theatre company Myths Made Here also took home two awards for its first production, a modern retelling of Cinderella, with Daniel Evans winning for Best Director and Amy Ingram for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role.

Richard Lund was named Best Male Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal as the titular, infamous Australian bushranger in Kelly, edging out Cinderella’s Thomas Larkin, who took home the Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role trophy for his depiction of Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman.

Susie French won in the Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role category for her performance in A Girl’s Guide to World War, which was also honoured with the Lord Mayor’s Award for Best New Australian Work, which was presented by Brisbane Deputy Lord Mayor Krista Adams.

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Theatre collective The SUI Ensemble, won Best Independent Production for its sold-out season of La Silhouette, an immersive performance that chronicled Brisbane’s queer history.

La Silhouette

The Sui Ensemble collect the Matilda Award for Best Independent Production for La Silhouette.

Inside Out, conceived and directed by Tammy Zarb and Company for Bleach* Festival, which was named Best Circus or Physical Theatre Work, and also took the prize for Best Lighting Design, for Geoff Squires.

Gold Coast dance and theatre collective The Farm was awarded in Best Sound Design/Composition for Throttle, and Libby McDonnell collected the Matilda for  Best Costume Design for Orpheus and Eurydice, a co-production between Opera Queensland and Circa.

The second annual Emerging Female Leader Award was presented to Emily Wells, whose producer credits include BlakDance and Supercell: Festival of Contemporary Dance, and who worked as assistant director on Steven Oliver’s new work From Darkness at La Boite Theatre.

Gina Tay Limpus was named Best Emerging Artist for her work in La Silhouette and Zen Zen Zo’s The Tempest, and Opera Queensland stage manager and arTour tour manager was the inaugural winner of the QUT Creative Industries Backstage Award.

Enoch congratulated all 2019 Matilda Awards nominees and recipients for their outstanding work.

“The Matilda Awards honour actors, designers, directors, playwrights, companies along with members of creative teams, and I’m pleased to see the 2019 Awards recognise new productions and emerging practitioners alongside the work of Queensland’s established performing arts organisations,” she said.

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