Some define art by saying that it is everything done without material purpose. Even ignoring the fact that this codifies the darkest corners of the Internet as art, this view is provably false. Art is not done without purpose; art is done for validation. There is nothing more material, more tangible, than the desperate, naked begging for affection and acknowledgement that runs through the very core of all artistic practice. Bisect any artwork and you will find the words ‘Love Me!’ written through it like Brighton rock.
This is all to say that there are not enough awards handed out. Some may say that awards are meaningless baubles, valuable only to those who haven’t won them, and that they serve only to infect the otherwise constant communal joy of the arts with strains of toxic competition. But that’s losers’ chatter. So, with that in mind, it gives me great joy and a touch of tangible smugness to award the second annual FishHead Theatre (and Associated Performing Arts) Awards for Exceptional Acts of Entertainment, Interest or Excellence.
I call them the Fishies.
This year’s first Fishy is the Aaron Cortesi Award for Most Undervalued Actor. It is handily won by Alex Greig, whose year took him from strength to chair-lifting strength, slipping seemingly by stealth into what seems like almost every other show staged in this city, from Circa’s epic and occasionally overwrought A View from the Bridge, to the hilarious if sometimes shallow Isaac’s Eye. Always low key, always giving his all, always doing most excellent work, Greig has single-handedly saved more shows this year than many other actors have appeared in at all. And yet he, as always, slips under the radar, under-appreciated and unawarded. Until now.
The Bright Orange Walls Award for Most Potential goes to I’ll Be Fine by Ben Wilson, directed by Ryan Knighton. While derivative at points and sometimes maddeningly static, the sheer aching possibilities of all the talent on show in this production made our judges more than sure that it is only a matter of time before these guys are producing some of the best work in town, once again proving BATS to be the most fertile Petri dish for young talent in the country.
This year’s stellar Young and Hungry festival is home to a lot of winners, with Second Afterlife pipping The Bookbinder to Best Ralph McCubbin Howell Play about Young People Travelling Through Metaphors for Their Inner Turmoil. Sara Brodie’s production of Dan Bain’s Uncle Minotaur takes home both Best Stilts and Most Blacklight in a Production Not Set in 1988, and Erina Daniels’ production of Alex Lodge’s Our Parent’s Children wins the Sydney Bridge Upside Down Award for Most Beautifully Baffling Production of a Very Good Script.
If any lesson needs be taken from this year’s Fishies, it is the fact that Wellington is more than bouncing back from the gloom of the closure of Downstage with a wealth of exciting new talent springing up beneath our very feet.