Theatre’s night of nights a success for Lilydale

Switzerland's Angela Glennie, Travis Handcock and Helen Ellis with the haul of Lyrebird Awards. Picture: SUPPLIED.

By Mikayla van Loon

Community theatre’s night of nights, the Lyrebird Awards, were hosted in early March seeing the best of local theatre awarded for a year of plays and musicals.

Lilydale Athenaeum Theatre Company scored a total of 33 nominations and 11 wins across all five of its 2023 productions.

But it was the production of Switzerland which outshone, winning best drama production, best director, best lead female and awards for lighting, costumes and set design.

Director Helen Ellis said the awards were “the icing on the cake” after producing an excellent show of talent from all involved in the play.

“We’re really, really proud of the production and you don’t do them with awards in mind and you shouldn’t. It’s about the process. It’s about providing entertainment for the audience,” she said.

“This is just icing on the cake and when we got as many nominations as we did, we were super excited and then when we started winning some, it was even better.”

The play, inspired by the life of The Talented Mr Ripley author Patricia Highsmith, was written for the stage by Joanna Murray-Smith in a thriller, come comedy, style.

Given the dark nature of the play, Ellis said everything in the production was important to give off the right effect so the audience felt the intensity of it.

“We had an incredible backstage team as well, who were there for the entire rehearsal process as well, which doesn’t always happen,” she said.

“Our stage managers, and our lighting, and sound technicians were there all the time. To have that level of enthusiasm and support was incredible and made a massive difference, because it is a challenging play as well.

“All the components came together,the lighting, the sound, the sets, the costumes, the props, the set dressing.”

The complexities of using quite a bit of fake blood as well as needing an armorist for the display of guns and knives as part of the set, Ellis said only added to the realness of the production.

So too did having skilled actors who were willing to try the weird and wonderful to convey such a dark thriller.

“[Angela Glennie and Travis Handcock] worked really, really well. You have to have strong people when you’re doing a two-hander where there’s only two people on stage for the entire play,” Ellis said.

“They have to be engaging, the audience needs to feel connected to them and that happened, which was fabulous.

“Both of them, all the way through the play, were just so committed and so trusting and for two people who are also incredibly experienced, to get them to do things they might not have ever done before and to sometimes step outside their own comfort zone and to know that someone’s going to throw themselves into that and is the best thing.”

For her outstanding performance, Angela Glennie was awarded best lead female, a role that was different to anything she had done before.

More than anything the Lyrebirds were an opportunity for the community theatre world to come together and celebrate a big year of productions at the new state of the art facility in Nunawading, The Round.

“It’s actually an opportunity to just celebrate regardless of what the results are. Those sorts of evenings are an opportunity for everyone to get together, have a chat, have a drink, have something to eat and for us to round out the previous year.

“It was fun to spend it with the cast but also with the group from all the other plays, not just from Lilydale but other theatre companies as well.”