The spirit of recently departed luminaries John Milson and Edgar Metcalfe hung over the WA theatre awards last night as the former was bestowed with an award named in honour of the latter.
Milson, who died at the weekend after a long battle with cancer, was announced as the joint winner of the inaugural Edgar Metcalfe Award at the 2013 Equity Guild Awards.
Milson had been presented with the award just a week before he died on Saturday, aged 85. He ran the Hole in the Wall theatre company, directed shows for Opera Australia and Effie Crump Theatre and initiated the musical theatre course at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, which he ran for 12 years.
The award - for outstanding, long-lasting contributions to the performing arts in WA - commemorates the memory of Metcalfe, the former director at the Playhouse and Hole in the Wall theatres who died in October.
The other recipient was Coralie Condon, still going strong at 97 and honoured for her pioneering work in WA theatre and the fledgling television industry in the 1950s and 60s. A writer, actor and director, Condon co-founded the Dirty Dicks theatre-restaurant chain in 1970 with Frank Baden-Powell. She also was a founding producer at Channel 7 and the first woman to appear on air on WA television.
Four of the nine judges' awards went to companies no longer in business. The best production award went to Red, the John Logan play presented by Onward Production, the short-lived theatrical vehicle for Sally Burton, who also was the recipient of the 2013 peer- nominated Guild Award for services to the industry.
The decision to give the Guild Award to Mrs Burton added a piquant flavour to proceedings at _The West Australian _Idolize Spiegeltent in the Perth Cultural Centre.
It highlighted the fragility of the local scene after the collapse of Deckchair Theatre Company in October and Mrs Burton's abandonment of her Onward Production venture to provide an alternative to Perth's subsidised stage companies.
Red was one of Onward Productions final shows before Mrs Burton pulled the plug after two years because of disappointing audiences and the impact of the dollar on the royalties from her late husband Richard Burton's films, which she had used to fund Red and her other plays.
James Hagan and Will O'Mahony, the actors in Red, the two-hander about the creative frustrations of New York abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, were honoured with the best actor and best supporting actor prizes respectively. The memory of Deckchair was invoked when Rhoda Lopez picked up the best actress award for her title role in its production of Lorelei.
Adam Mitchell won the best director award for steering Andrew Bovell's When the Rain Stops Falling for Black Swan State Theatre Company.
Black Swan's production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof brought success for Caitlin Beresford-Ord as best supporting actress.
Danielle Micich won the design category for her choreography on Driving Into Walls for Barking Gecko Theatre Company.
Joshua Brennan was judged best newcomer for his role in Tender Napalm, produced by Perth Theatre Company.
Humphrey Bower's Skin, a first- person telling of the stories of two Australian men in alien environments at the Blue Room Theatre, was best new play.
Gerry Atkinson, the retired actor, director and drama teacher cited by Rove McManus as his mentor, won the Heritage Award.The 13th annual awards, showcasing local professional theatre excellence, were run by The Equity Benevolent Guild of WA. They were held at the Spiegeltent for the first time after organisers said they had been priced out of the State Theatre Centre.