Pushing the envelope, please

Nothing like handing out awards to get everyone’s blood flowing. The first annual Brickenden Awards for outstanding work in London’s theatre community were announced on New Year’s Day, and the interest and controversies generated are further signs that London has come of age as a theatre town.

Critic’s Choices

In the Critic’s Choice category, Christopher Doty, principal reviewer for the Theatre in London website, gave three awards to Fountainhead Theatreworks’ production of The Laramie Project — Best Production, Best Director (John Gerry) and Best Supporting Actor (Justin Peter Quesnelle). The play is an unusual documentary-drama based on interviews done in the wake of the murder of a gay man in Laramie, Wyoming. This was the first Canadian production of the play, but others are already in the works across the country, so congratulations to Fountainhead for getting to it first, and for doing such a fine job of it.

Doty’s Best Actor and Actress Awards were snapped up by the leads in Ausable Theatre’s production of Her Worship. Virginia Pratten played the religious, neo-conservative mayor and John Turner her agnostic, liberal advisor in this world premiere by Peter Desbarats.

Two collaborations involving Jayson McDonald, Lil Malinich and Audrey Davenport accounted for three more awards: The Deluxe Illustrated Body won Best Original Script (Malinich and McDonald) and Best Supporting Actress (Davenport, the youngest Brickenden recipient). Microscopic Men (Weldon Park Academy) won Best Youth Production — the script was by McDonald, the direction by Malinich and Davenport appeared on stage.

Doty’s favourite comedy production was Like a Lead Balloon, a visiting production by two former Londoners, Sean Rooney and Tim Etherington. Rooney claims to be one of the world’s premiere balloon-twisters, and the piece was a demonstrative autobiographical tale of a potentially career-launching performance that went horribly, embarrassingly wrong.

Rod Keith was recognized for his set design for Chelsea & Boggs – Head Trip. Besides the big hair and quirky 70s clothes, this spoof series is known for sets that defy theatre conventions to give that “watching TV” feeling.

People’s Choices

In the People’s Choice category, London Community Players productions accounted for two awards – Martha Zimmerman for Best Actress (Wrong for Each Other) and Stephen Mitchell for Best Set Design (Moon Over Buffalo).

Original Kids’ Fringe production of Caitlin Murphy’s The Chance of Rain won Best Youth Production.

Best Supporting Actor and Actress went to Don Fleckser (The Story of the Gentle Rain Food Co-op) and Julie Seip (The Laramie Project), and I split the Best Actor Award with John Turner (Her Worship) for my performance of James O’Reilley’s one-man show Work. Another Chelsea and Boggs episode (Double-Dealin’ Trouble Doubles) won Best Comedy.

The other results in the People’s Choice (Best Production, Best Director and Best Original script) matched Doty’s picks.

Congratulation to everyone who helped to make the first Brickenden Awards a success. The first of the 2003 crop of plays are already rolling, so start the year off right with some home-grown theatre. Keep an eye on the newspaper listings, or the playbill at www.theatreinlondon.ca.