At a star-studded ceremony held on Monday, the winners of the 2016 Sydney Theatre Awards were announced, with 35 Awards presented, shared between 15 productions, which played in Sydney during the calendar year of 2016. Over 450 members of the Sydney theatre community packed the York Theatre at the Seymour Centre to celebrate the best of Sydney theatre – the first time the awards have been held there.

Best Mainstage Production was awarded to Belvoir’s The Drover’s Wife, which also won Mainstage awards for Best Director (Leticia Caceres), Best Score or Sound Design (The Sweats) and Best New Australian Work (Leah Purcell). Best Independent Production went to Sport for Jove’s Antigone, which also took Independent gongs for 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).

Belvoir’s Faith Healer took out three acting awards in the Mainstage categories, Best Male Actor in a Leading Role (Colin Friels), Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Alison Whyte) and Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Pip Miller), while Best Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Mainstage Production went to Marta Dusseldorp for Griffin’s Gloria.

In the Musical categories, Hayes Theatre Co’s Little Shop of Horrors scooped the pool, winning Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Dean Bryant), Best Choreography (Andrew Hallsworth), Best Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Esther Hannaford) and Best Male Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Brent Hill). In an unusual decision, the critics voted Working Class Boy: An Evening of Stories and Songs, Jimmy Barnes’ very personal show about his life which played at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, as Best Cabaret.

The Sydney Theatre Award for Lifetime Achievement was presented to actor Judi Farr. From her early roles with the Old Tote Theatre Company, to her legendary performance as Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman for Nimrod opposite Warren Mitchell and Mel Gibson, and on to roles with the Sydney Theatre Company (Angels In America, Beauty Queen of Leenane), Belvoir (Cloudstreet, Buried Child) and all major Australian theatre companies, as well as an extensive body of work in film and television, Judi Farr has been at the top of her profession for more than 40 years.

Presenters at the Awards ceremony were Damien Bermingham, Adam Cook, Mel Dyer, Danielle Ironside, Madeleine Jones, Angharad Lindley, Luke McGettigan, Pacharo Mzembe, Tyran Parke, Anthony Phelan, Rebecca Poulter, Ellen Simpson, Minka Stevens, Ben Wood, Vanessa Wright and Meyne Wyatt; and there were performances from Robyn Archer, Ben Hall and David Campbell (Only Heaven Knows), and David Whitney and Kurt Phelan with a song and dance ensemble.

The Sydney Theatre Awards are run by a group of leading theatre critics to celebrate the strength, quality and diversity of theatre in Sydney. The Sydney Theatre Reviewers are Elissa Blake (Fairfax), Jason Blake (Fairfax), Dee Jefferson (Time Out), Deborah Jones (The Australian), Jo Litson (Sunday Telegraph/ Limelight), John McCallum (The Australian), Ben Neutze (Daily Review), Diana Simmonds (stagenoise.com), Polly Simons (Daily Telegraph) and Cassie Tongue (AussieTheatre).

The Sydney Theatre Awards gratefully thanks its sponsors: The Seaborn, Broughton and Walford Foundation, Industrie, William Fletcher Foundation, Showcast, Currency Press, Ticketmaster, Hayes Theatre Co, Bellbird Cottages, ACMN and JPJ Audio.

Featured image – William Zappa. All images by Ben Apfelbaum (c).