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Time Out Melbourne's second annual alternative Helpmann Awards

Underground Railroad Game Malthouse Theatre 2019
Photograph: Ben Arons

Another year, another round of Helpmann Awards for the theatrical community to cheer, boo and yell at with supreme apoplexy. They mightn’t be quite as frustrating as the Oscars (are any of us over that time Brokeback Mountain lost to Crash?), but there are a number of ways, year after year, they find a way to disappoint and exclude.

That could be through a lack of Indigenous representation – although it must be said that this year has seen major improvements on this front; it could be gross gender bias, where, for example, no female choreographers are even nominated; or it could be a complete lack of interest in regional and rural performances that don’t visit major cities.

This year, the Helpmanns have moved from Sydney to Melbourne, so you’d expect to see more Melbourne shows in the mix. You’d be wrong. This year’s line-up is incredibly Sydney-centric.

So here at Time Out, we like to hold a little tonic for those feelings of awards ennui, a little repository for our collective indignation. We call them the Alternative Helpmanns, the Alternate Helpmanns, and sometimes the flat-out Fake Helpmanns. Of course, we'll have the full list of official winners tonight, but here are our picks:

Best Choreography by a Person (which could include a man but doesn’t)
Jo Lloyd, for OVERTURE, who is apparently good enough to get nominated for Best Dance Production but not for choreographing the bloody thing.
Special Mention: Stephanie Lake, for Colossus and Skeleton Tree, and for taking her amazing dancers to Paris.

Best Demonstration that Neuroatypical People Know How to Be Funny as Fuck
Sophie Smyth and Ryan Smedley for The Aspie Hour.

Best Ensemble in the Best Verbatim Theatre that Made Us Feel Best
The extraordinary, brave, funny, candid and courageous people who read for The Butch Monologues.

Best Dancing on an Australian Stage Since Helpmann Himself Danced on One
Controversially named and never before awarded, this one, but finally taken out by William Forsythe’s company for A Quiet Evening of Dance.

Best Onstage Execution
Lisa McCune taking out her work mates in Gloria.

Best Offstage Execution
Paula Arundell popping off her abusive husband before the lights come up on The Bleeding Tree.

Best Audience Interruption
The possum who crashed a performance of Annie Baker’s The Antipodes.

Best Audience Dressing-Down
Dushan Philips telling a talkative audience member to “shut the fuck up” during his final monologue in Annie Baker’s The Antipodes.

Best Play
Underground Railroad Game, obviously. Seriously, how is this not nominated?

Best New Playwright
William Shakespeare for The Merry Wives of Windsor. (What? Harold Prince is nominated for Best Director of a Musical at the real Helpmanns, and he’s 4,000 years old!)

Best Phoenix
Not awarded every year, this one was a no-brainer: the spirit of La Mama, rising right up out of those ashes.

Best Conductor
Anthony Negus for Melbourne Opera’s The Flying Dutchman – a company quietly smashing it under the radar and without government funding.

Best Victim of Multiple Murders in the One Show
Mitchell Butel in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

Best Performance in a Musical
Jayden Tatasciore, for School of Rock, who was literally half the size of his lead guitar and still managed to bend it to his will.

Most Courageous Performance
Eryn-Jean Norvill on the witness stand.

Best Lighting
Niklas Pajanti’s lights for A View From the Bridge made this blank stage feel like a Caravaggio.
Special Mention: Paul Jackson’s otherworldly effects for Melancholia, which made it look like the actors were levitating.

Best Purple Snow
Purple Snow for Melancholia.
Special Mention: We predict Purple Snow for Wake in Fright will take this one next year.

Best Comedy Debut
Hannah Gadsby for Douglas*

Best Audience Coughing and Lolly Unwrapping
Every audience who attends a classical concert anywhere in the country.

Most Improved
The Helpmann Awards, for recognising Barbara and the Camp Dogs in the best musical category (we’re taking this back if that Chocolate Factory wins).

*This is a joke about clueless whiny boys and their myopia regarding brilliant mid-career female comedians so please don’t call us and complain. (Unless you’re a clueless whiny boy. Go on, call us. We could do with a laugh.)

Need more theatre in your life? Check out the best shows in Melbourne this month and all the biggest musicals coming your way.

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