Perth children’s theatre company Barking Gecko was the victim of an embarrassing blunder at the Helpmann Awards on Monday night when its show The Red Tree was mistakenly announced as a winner by presenter Eddie Perfect.
The organisers of Australia’s top stage awards could not explain how the error happened, and why efforts were not made to correct it as the ceremony continued at the Sydney Opera House.
Barking Gecko artistic director John Sheedy made an acceptance speech and celebrated the apparent victory well into the night before jumping on a plane back to Perth.
The real winners, Tasmania’s Terrapin Puppet Theatre for their show Boats, and Barking Gecko were not told of the mistake until the next day.
The Helpmann trophy had the correct winner engraved on it and the presenter’s envelope named the winner below a list of the four nominees, Live Performance Australia chief executive Evelyn Richardson said.
“Eddie was briefed and had the correct winner but he read out the incorrect name,” Ms Richardson said.
She had apologised to both companies and blamed a series of oversights for the mistake not being noticed until it was too late. The LPA would take steps to ensure it did not happen again, she said.
“These guys, Terrapin and Barking Gecko, are my members and I don’t want them to have a bad experience. This is the last thing I want to see happen.”
Sheedy congratulated Terrapin but expressed his disappointment. “We were not informed until this morning that an error had occurred,” he said.
The Red Tree had received four Helpmann nominations and the company remained extremely proud of the people who had worked on it, he said.
The fiasco capped a disappointing night for WA companies, which received 16 nominations for just one win, Orla Boylan’s best supporting female role in WA Opera’s Elektra.
Perfect, who is currently appearing in the musical South Pacific, could not be contacted
The error was amended in the closing credits of the delayed awards broadcast on the Studio pay-TV channel last night.