Part of that excitement is certainly because of where we are. The Hannah is open for business once again and I can’t help but feel very excited to be back in this building! I have conversations pre-awards with young artists who have never been here before, and old hands who were here in the early downstage days. Right across that spectrum, there is an excitement about this concrete corner of Courtenay Place welcoming practitioners back and being alive once more!
The show starts with an absolute bang! We are welcomed, and we waiata together before MC Pippa Drakeford-Croad opens with a musical number complete with live band and back-up dancers. She’s our host/big show mama for the evening and has us frankly losing our minds! She wasted no time in racing straight into the awards and so neither will I.
The Best Newcomer Awards were taken out by Bjorn Aslund and Reon Bell who both seemed genuinely shocked at having won, and hadn’t prepared speeches. They thanked their whanau and creative teams and set the tone for the evening. I don’t believe anyone had prepared a speech. We’re all just too humble, ok. It would be completely unpatriotic to dare to think you might win at an awards night and surprise is the order of the evening.
Brynne Tasker-Poland and Lucas Neal take the out Lighting Design and Production Design awards respectively, both for Skin Tight which would have a deservedly busy night at the awards. The design awards were rounded out by Emma Stevens for their costume design on ROXY, Jason Wright for sound design for Destination Mars and Tane Upjohn-Beatson for his The Griegol music composition. Upjohn-Beatson won a literal Emmy this year and assured us that the Wellington Theatre Awards is “way cooler than the Emmy’s, way cooler!”.
One of the highlights of the evening, commented on by many award recipients, was the diversity of voices in this year’s Playwriting categories. Isaac Martyn received the Best New Playwright Award for He Māori? and while Carrie Rudzinski and Olivia Hall’s Hysterical won the Best New Aotearoa Play plaudit. While both are deserving winners, there’s also a sense that the quality and diversity of writers in this city is alive and well- something we should all celebrate!
City Councillor Nicola Young suffered a few jibes about more arts funding and took them like a champ, before getting up onstage alongside Tanemahuta Gray to present the Mayoral Award for Significant Contribution to Wellington Theatre. Founder of Taki Rua and champion of Maori theatre and Te Reo Maori Rangimoana Taylor received a standing ovation and in all honesty half the room were just shocked he hadn’t been awarded this years ago. An absolute legend who finished his acceptance speech by thanking his husband “because I’m not the easiest person to live with”. Pure class!
In the lead up to the snazzy “excellence” awards 11 local legends were acknowledged in the community awards categories. Full list below, but these are awarded for all sorts of good stuff and nominated by the community itself. Special shout outs to Deb McGuire, Tony Black, Sam Brooks and Simon Howard who all do amazing work to support shows behind the scenes and advocate for us with clarity and compassion.
Innovation was awarded to multiple productions and organisations this year too. The First Buzzard at the Body received the Most Original Production, while three organisations were acknowledged for innovative contributions to the community. DAFT: Disabled Arts Festival of Theatre was celebrated for its inaugural festival, PAYPA for its work championing theatre for children and young people, and Fresh off the Page for providing space for Asian Playwrights to have their work read and developed.
The Innovative Contribution Awards were one of two new categories this year, the other being an award for choreography (movement, fight and intimacy coordination). Skin Tight was the inaugural winner of this exciting new category which I hope sticks around for years to come.
The Social Change Award was won by Te Ahu Taiohi who’s full cast of inspiring rangatahi took to the stage and performed in response. It was a beautiful showing of multicultural identity and celebrating the community of Porirua. We love to see it, a genuine highlight of the evening!
The performance ensemble award was taken out by The Swing and individual awards for outstanding performance and actors of the year went to Rutene Spooner, Miriama McDowell, Jthan Morgan and Ella Gillbert. Morgan accurately described the performance category as “stacked” and you have to say that’s a fair description of this year’s winners and nominees.
The final awards of the night were time for The Griegol to shine. Hannah Smith was awarded Best Director and the show took out the Production of the Year Award, taking Trick of the Light’s total haul to three for the evening. It feels fitting that a show which had its Wellington debut stalled by over 18 months should round out an evening of gratitude and celebration.
240 works were up for judging for this year’s awards, and to every single person who made those shows happen in this third, and possibly most challenging year of the pandemic era- you should be celebrated! Having the resilience and commitment to make work in the current environment is an astonishing achievement, and while not everyone could win on Sunday there was a sense of celebration that we are still here. We are still making, still connecting communities through live art, still sharing the joy of doing what we love. We at Art Murmurs want to thank you for sharing your work, and often inviting us to see it. We can’t wait to see what you do next!
Full List of Winners and Nominees:
George Webbey Most Promising Newcomer- Bjorn Aslund (ROXY, Sublime Interludes, The Everchanging Boy, An Honest Conversation)
Willem Wassenar Most Promising Newcomer- Reon Bell (Wednesday to Come, Flames)
Nominees- Mycah Keall, Dylan Fa’atui, Sarai Perenise-Ropeti, Rebekah de Roo, Alesha Adhar, Fay Van Der Meulen
LIghting Designer of the Year- Brynne Tasker-Poland (Skin Tight, UNDOING)
Nominees- Bekky Boyce, Jane Hakaraia, Rachel Marlow
Production Designer of the Year- Lucas Neal (Skin Tight)
Nominees- Meg Rollandi, Hannah Smith, Sylvie McCreanor, Rose Kirkup, Ralph McGubbin-Howell, Jon Coddington, Danii Kellett
Paul Jenden Costume Designer of the Year- Emma Stevens (ROXY)
Nominees- Sheila Horton, Cara Louise Waretini, Salome Grace and Victoria Gridley
Sound Designer of the Year- Jason Wright (Destination Mars)
Nominees- Eden Mulholland, Emma Maguire, Benny Jennings
Outstanding Composer of Music- Tane Upjohn-Beatson (The Griegol)
Nominees- Oliver Devlin, Te Aihe Butler, Rutene Spooner, Tim Shacklock, Emi Pogoni
The Peter Harcourt New Playwright of the Year- Isaac Martyn (He Māori?)
Nominees- Susan Williams, Adam Rohe, Ni Dekkers-Reihana, Roy Iro, Reon Bell and Sean Dioneda Rivera
New Aotearoa Play Award- Carrie Rudzinski and Olivia Hall (Hysterical)
Nominees- Hone Kouka, Barneie Duncan, Helen Pearse-Otene
Absolutely Positively Most Original Production- First Buzzard at the Body
Nominees- BIGTIMECLOCKS, Loops, Illegaly Blind
Mayoral Award for Outstand Contribution to Theatre- Rangimoana Taylor
Excellence Award for Theatre for Social Change- Te Ahu Taiohi
Nominees- Too Much Hair, The Swing, Illegally Blind
Excellence Award for Ensemble- The Swing
Nominees- ROXY, Too Much Hair, The Tiwhas
Excellence Award for Choreography- Skin TIght
Excellence Award for Innovative Contribution to the Industry and/or Community- DAFT: Disabled Artist’s Festival of Theatre
Performing Arts of Young People Aotearoa
Fresh off the Page
Grant Tilly Actor of the Year- Rutene Spooner (Thoroughly Modern Maori)
Dorothy McKegg Actor of the Year- Miriama McDowell (The Wasp)
The Campion Accolade for Outstanding Performance- Jthan Morgan (The Mermaid, The Tiwhas, Too Much Hair, Pinnochio)
The Michelle Amas Accolade for Outstanding Performance- Ella Gilbert (Skin Tight)
Nominees- Hannah Lynch, Bree Peters, Arlo Gibson, Sameena Zehra, Grace Hoete, Barnie Duncan, Susan Williams, Ross McCormack
Director of the Year- Hannah Smith (The Griegol)
Nominees- Malia Johnstone, Erina Daniels, Sabrina Martin
Production of the Year- The Griegol
Nominees- Owls Do Cry, The Swing, Skin Tight
Heart of Gold Awards- Sepelini Mua’au, Hannah Kelly, Ni Dekkers-Reihana, Austin Harrison, Aimee Sullivan
Save the Day Award- Tony Black
Community Arts Mahi Award- Voice Arts
Big Mentor Energy Award- Deb McGuire
Front of House Superstar Award- Harish Purohit
Voice of Reason Award- Sam Brooks
The Newsies Award- Simon Howard
The 2022 Wellington Theatre Awards were judged by::