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Wellington, NZ. 17 July 2014. A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE by Arthur Miller. Directed by Susan Wilson. Opens at Circa One, 19 July to 23 August. Starring Gavin Rutherford, Christopher Brougham, Jude Gibson, Alex Greig, Acushla-Tara Sutton and Paul Waggott. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.  COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

Wel­ling­ton, NZ. 17 July 2014. A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE by Arthur Miller. Dir­ec­ted by Susan Wilson. Opens at Circa One, 19 July to 23 August. Star­ring Gav­in Ruther­ford, Chris­toph­er Brougham, Jude Gib­son, Alex Greig, Acushla-Tara Sut­ton and Paul Wag­gott. Photo cred­it: Steph­en A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Steph­en A’Court

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.