Feminist theatre-makers finding international success, a community sing-a-long show, a well-known director and the writer of New Zealand's first Filipino play were among the big winners at the Auckland Theatre Awards.

Held at the Civic on Thursday, the annual awards recognise excellence in Auckland theatre. A range of talent was recognised, which reflects the increasing diversity seen on local stages and the types of stories being told.

Excellence awards for overall production went to Working On My Night Moves and its production team Te Aihe Butler, Julia Croft, Sarah Foster-Sproull, Calvin Hudson, Nisha Madhan, Kate Prior, Ruby Reihana-Wilson, Meg Rollandi, Jason Wright and Lydia Zanetti.

Judges, made up of industry experts, noted that Croft and Madhan constantly question what theatre can be and described Working on my Night Moves as "their most uncomfortably intoxicating work to date". The show was developed at the Battersea Arts Centre in London and will be performed in the UK next month.

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Kallo Collective, featuring Thom Monckton and Gemma Tweedie, also took out an excellence award for overall production for Only Bones v1.0. With sole performer Thom Monckton confined to just 1sqm of stage, judges were astonished by the "controlled physical storytelling" from Monckton – "seemingly made entirely of rubber and charm."

Marianne Infante and Marwin Silerio in Pinay, where the richness of Filipino culture shines.
Marianne Infante and Marwin Silerio in Pinay, where the richness of Filipino culture shines.

New Zealand's first Filipino play Pinay garnered its writer Marianne Infante, of Proudly Asian Theatre, an excellence award for overall production with judges saying it was moving and heartfelt, interlaced Filipino and Māori culture and showcased excellent performances from relatively new faces.

"With strong direction from James Roque, this was a groundbreaking work from Proudly Asian Theatre Company."

Originally designed for secondary school and university audiences, a play about consent, Yes Yes Yes saw Eleanor Bishop, Rachel Marlow, Karin McCracken, Ruby Reihana-Wilson, Helen Sheehan and Lydia Zanetti also take home an excellence award for overall production.

Performer and Yes Yes Yes cocreator Karin McCracken in a performance of the play which aims to prevent sexual violence. Photo / Jinki Cambronero
Performer and Yes Yes Yes cocreator Karin McCracken in a performance of the play which aims to prevent sexual violence. Photo / Jinki Cambronero

"Carefully unpicking moments around consent which are often charged, messy or confused, Yes Yes Yes took on the essential task of exploring questions of sexual agency for young people without being naff. But it was also something more: a piece of art that was genuinely helpful for all of us."

Barbarian Productions was the final winner of an excellence award for overall production with Sing It To My Face, which assembled community choirs of people of different generations to say – sing – to one another what they think about generational issues. Judges said it was unlike anything else on Auckland stages last year.

Other winners were:
Excellence in direction: Sophie Roberts for The Wolves.
Excellence in performance: Arlo Green for Homos.
Excellence in leadership: Ahi Karunaharan, who in 2019 directed two separate mainstage shows for Silo Theatre and Auckland Theatre Company, which highlighted South Asian stories and featured only South Asian performers.
Excellence in Design: Rachel Marlow, Nic Smillie and Rachael Walker for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead.

Outstanding newcomers: Brady Peeti and Ankita Singh. Peeti is performing in Sydney in a starring role in the world's first Māori/Australian Aboriginal romantic comedy. Called Black Ties, it comes to Auckland in March as part of the city's annual arts festival. Singh is active in producing theatre and runs her own production company, Oriental Maidens.

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