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Queensland's Matilda Awards and 'Brisbane' scoops the pool

Parochial, or just co-incidental? The Queensland Theatre Company’s production of Matthew Ryan’s charming piece of realism about the effects of World War II on Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane, just about scooped the pool at Monday night’s annual Matilda Awards.

It won the best main stage production, the Lord Mayor’s Award for the best new Australian work, and its main character, Dash Kruck, added to his already impressive list of rewards with Best Male Actor in a leading role. And the rapturous applause from the packed Gardens Theatre in Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens confirmed the general feeling that, overall, the Matilda’s committee knew what it was doing.

The other standout award, the single Gold Matilda (the awards structure changed last year), went to the late and much-beloved stalwart of Queensland theatre, Carol Burns, especially for her world-standard portrayal of Winnie (pictured above) in Beckett’s Happy Days, which she performed only a few months before her death from cancer last December.

The Matilda Awards can never outshine the Oscars, of course, but they do reward some of the best theatrical talent in Brisbane, and this time it was the QTC that took home many of the awards for what have been called the Silver Matildas – this in spite of QTC’s publicity department’s reluctance to give offer review tickets to many members of the Committee. Only in Queensland, I’m compelled to say, although the QTC recipients accepted the awards with every sign of pleasure.

Libby Munro won the award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role for her the one-woman play, Grounded, and Naomi Price, usually known as a singing diva, finally landed an acting gong, as Best Supporting Female Actor in Ladies in Black.

But the winners weren’t always main stage productions – Shock Therapy’s co-production of The Pillowman in collaboration with the Brisbane Powerhouse scored Best Director (Sam Foster), Best Male Actor in a supporting role (Tama Matheson) and Best Independent Production; while Shake and Stir landed both design awards – Josh McIntosh for set and costumes, and Jason Glenwright for his spectacular lighting.

While they can’t be all things to all people, unlike many other awards the Matildas try to acknowledge new performers as well as the long-established, and this year’s Bille Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist Award went to a very bright young star from the popular Harvest Rain stable, Georgina Hopson, for her performances in The Pirates of Penzance and Into the Woods.

And to add to his many accolades, Dash Kruck, along with Jai Higgs, won the Best Cabaret Award with his bitter-sweet tale of lost love, I Might Take My Shirt Off, part of the QPAC Cabaret Festival.

In spite of many changes over its 29 year history, and the often bitter political rows about format and judges, the Matilda Awards are still going strong, and with the backing of Arts Queensland will continue to develop, even if they do annoy many people along the way and attract plenty of criticism.

The Matildas Awards were presented in the Gardens Theatre at QUT on Monday 29 February. For more information about the awards, visit www.matildaawards.com.au

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