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Belvoir and Hayes Theatre dominate Sydney Theatre Awards 2016

Dee Jefferson

Belvoir was the big winner at the Sydney Theatre Awards ceremony at the Seymour Centre last night, taking home Best Mainstage Production, Best New Australian Work, Best Director and Best Sound Design for The Drover’s Wife (an adaptation of Henry Lawson's short story by actress, director and writer Leah Purcell), and three Best Actor awards (male, female supporting and male supporting) for their production of Faith Healer. Click through to read our reviews of each show; you should also read our interview with Purcell about her special relationship with Lawson's original tale, and the ways in which her adaptation drew on her family history.

Colin Friels and co-stars Pip Miller and Alison Whyte all took home acting awards for Belvoir’s Faith Healer
Photograph: Brett Boardman

The other big winners for the night were the Hayes Theatre and Luckiest Productions with Little Shop of Horrors, which cleaned up in the Musicals category. Besides Best Musical, Little Shop of Horrors took home awards for Best Director (Dean Bryant), Best Female Actor (Esther Hannaford), Best Male Actor (Brent Hill) and Supporting Actor (Scott Johnson), and Costume Design, Stage Design and Choreography.

Esther Hanford, Brent Hill and ‘Audrey 2’ in Little Shop of Horrors and The Hayes Theatre.
Photograph: Jeff Busby

In the Independent categories, the awards were swept up by Sport For Jove's production of Antigone, which not only took out Best Independent Production but also Best Director (Damien Ryan and Terry Karabelas), Best Female Actor in a Leading Role (Andrea Demetriades), Best Male Actor in a Leading Role (William Zappa), Best Stage Design and Best Costume Design (Melanie Liertz), and Best Lighting Design (Matt Cox).

Janine Watson, Elijah Williams, Louisa Mignone, Andrea Demetriades and Thomas Royce-Hampton – in Antigone
Photograph: Marnya Rothe

The Sydney Theatre Awards are an independent body comprised of theatre critics from major publications. Time Out’s National Arts & Culture editor Dee Jefferson is in the voting committee, as are regular Time Out Sydney reviewers Cassie Tongue (also editor at Aussie Theatre) and Polly Simons (who also writes for Daily Telegraph). The other committee members are Elissa Blake (Fairfax), Jason Blake (Sydney Morning Herald), Deborah Jones (The Australian), Jo Litson (The Sunday Telegraph/ Limelight), John McCallum (The Australian), Ben Neutze (Daily Review), and Diana Simmonds (Stagenoise).

STA is convened to celebrate the strength of Sydney's theatre scene, and the ceremony brought together more than 450 theatre makers and supporters, and featured galvanising words of encouragement and support in speeches from Lifetime Achievement Award winner Judi Farr, as well as Best Actress winner Marta Dusseldorp (who played a woman who kills her children, in Griffin Theatre Company's Gloria), Best Director Leticia Cáceres (for The Drover's Wife), and Sport for Jove's Terry Karabelas (Antigone).

Speeches focused on the role of theatre as an "empathy machine", on the need for gender parity and cultural diversity in all areas of the industry, and on the importance of theatre in the current political climate.

Accepting her Best Director award for Leah Purcell's adaptation of The Drover's Wife, Leticia Cáceres said: "Leah’s version of The Drover’s Wife is a rough-edged stone cast straight into the heart of the colonisation story. And that is what art has to do, that’s what it’s about – and that is our power.”

Mark Coles Smith and Leah Purcell in The Drover's Wife
Photograph: Brett Boardman

See what's on stage at Belvoir in 2017, and check our latest Sydney Theatre reviews to see what we're loving right now.  

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