I was fortunate enough to attend five Helpmann Award ceremonies during my time as the Managing Editor of AussieTheatre.com, and during those particular five years, got to see the growth of the concept in terms of recognition and coverage.
Of course, I have my well-known issues with the entire awards concept, including the absolute farce that allows producers to put shows up for awards outside of the year they debuted in.
Yes, the awards have needed an overhaul for some time but all in all, they are a fantastic celebration of the industry and no matter what state the arts are in at the time, the Helpmanns always provide hope that the year ahead will be bright and exciting.
One always should remember that budgets and timeframes often stopped the Helpmanns from being the knockout production that it probably deserves to be.
One giant step forward for the Helpmanns during my time involved in the theatre landscape was the live broadcast on Foxtel. After all, it ensured a national audience for theatre’s night of nights.
Now we probably didn’t promote the live broadcasts well enough, and often the broadcasts themselves were a little shaky particularly on nights where there was empty seats in the theatre, making the whole thing look a little shabby. However, the fact that the event was being showcased live on television was vitally important.
Amazing, then, that this year, Foxtel will broadcast the Helpmanns on a 24 hour delay. They’ll show it on their STUDIO channel on Tuesday night. We’ll all know the winners, and the theatre community outside of Sydney won’t have the chance to see the event live.
A month ago Foxtel broadcast rugby league’s annual awards night, the Dally Ms, live. On Thursday they will broadcast the Grand Final Breakfast live. Yes, players and officials eating breakfast will be live on your telly.
Tonight, Fox will show the AFL’s awards night, the Brownlows, live.
For years I listened to the theatre community whinge and moan about sports coverage, and how the arts played second fiddle in this country to rugby league, AFL and anything else involving a ball and sweat.
Yet there seems very little complaint about the lack of live broadcast. People should be screaming and stamping their feet, because while Hugh Jackman in Oklahoma may well be a theatre lover’s dream, there’s no reason STUDIO should be broadcasting it tonight instead of a live Helpmanns feed.
One can only wonder how it all happened, and if Helpmann organisers agreed to the delayed broadcast.
The sporting events arts lovers so often criticise are so popular because over many years, they built national audiences not just thanks to the games themselves but because of the events surrounding it. The fact that the Dally M medal, or the grand final breakfast, is broadcast live – and it’s a given that it will be – is a huge boost to rugby league, for example, in general.
The fact that the Helpmanns is broadcast on a 24 hour delay is a slap in the face for an industry desperate for wider media coverage.