07 December, 2020
Playwright Suzie Miller’s critically acclaimed one-woman play Prima Facie has taken out the two highest honours at the Australian Writers’ Guild’s annual AWGIE Awards, winning the 2020 Major Award and the David Williamson Prize for Excellence in Writing for Australian Theatre.
In a year that has seen our Australian stories under threat from COVID-19 shutdowns, funding cuts and delays to Government reform, the new-look AWGIE Awards were a fitting coda to 2020; driven online due to restrictions but emerging as a joyous celebration of the strength and talents of Australia’s screen and stage writers. AWG President Shane Brennan captured the spirit of the night, commenting on the extraordinary year behind us and pressing the importance of Government and regulatory support for Australian writers as ‘critical for the future survival of our industry.’ His speech ended on a note of hope for a brighter and safer 2021, and for screen and stage writers to have the opportunity to continue to tell their stories and take them to the world.
The 2020 winners present a fascinating look into a pre-COVID Australia on the brink of change, with stories that deconstruct societal norms, celebrate everyday lives, and challenge us to be better as we move forward. This is evident in the television categories, where two of 2019’s top dramas, The Hunting by Niki Aken and Matthew Cormack and Total Control: Episode 3 by Pip Karmel, were recognised. The Heights, lauded for its depiction of contemporary Australia, won Peter Mattessi the AWGIE in the television serial category, ending a run of 16-straight years for Neighbours and Home and Away.
However, it was Prima Facie that was the real standout on the night, garnering Miller the AWGIE Award in the stage category in addition to the Major Award and David Williamson Prize. The taut and compelling one-woman play holds an unforgiving mirror up to the Australian legal system, exposing its failures towards women in rape, sexual assault or harassment cases and challenging the system, as well as the play’s audience, to listen and learn. It is the second year in a row that a female playwright has received both the Major Award and the David Williamson Prize, a testament to the strength of Australian playwriting even in the face of funding cuts and industry upheaval.
The Major Award is presented to the writer of the work deemed the most excellent out of all the AWGIE Award category winners. The David Williamson Prize for Excellence in Australian Theatre is worth $100,000, with $20,000 of the prize awarded to the playwright of the winning theatre script, and $80,000 of the prize going to the theatre company that commissioned and developed it for the stage (this year, Griffin Theatre Company), with the express purpose of the prize money being used to commission, develop and program a new Australian work.
Other 2020 AWGIE Award winners:
In the theatre and audio categories, winners were:
The AWGIE Awards were hosted by actor, writer and comedian Bjorn Stewart, with Awards presented by Hugo Weaving, Wayne Blair, Marta Dusseldorp, Tony McNamara, Shane Brennan, David Williamson, Tony Ayres, Kodie Bedford, Benjamin Law, Michelle Law, Alison Bell, John Leary, and Bradley Slabe.
To watch the full 53rd Annual AWGIE Awards broadcast, click here.
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