AWGIES 2020 bow down to a one-woman theatre show

Suzie Miller's quietly spectacular international career in theatre, informed by an education in science, law and theatre, adds a prime AWGIE to her mantelpiece.

In a year when live events were stuffed and audiences binged themselves stupid on the small screen, the annual performance writers’ awards were delivered online. It turns out that the night really belonged to live theatre. Mind you, Suzie Miller’s play Prima Facie is a one-woman piece, developed before the pandemic.

She was awarded the David Williamson Prize for Excellence in Writing for Australian Theatre. This is a smart prize, as she receives $20,000 while the commissioning company gets $80,000 to commission, develop and program a new Australian work. That will make the Griffin Theatre Company very happy. 

Miller went on to receive the Major Award, once known as the Gold AWGIE and the climax of the event. While it pits apples against oranges, assembled professional writers relish the opportunity to honour the whole craft and reach to the fundamentals of performed communication.

The Guild described Prima Facie thus:

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. 

Suzie Miller is a truly impressive artist. Now living in London, trailing a glitter of awards, she has made around 20 plays as she moved from lawyer to imagineer via the Playwrights Studio at the Australian National Institute of Dramatic Arts, an honours degree in science and a masters in theatre/film, interlaced with wonderful international residencies, including a three year mentorship with Edward Albee.

Bryony Tresize in The Conversation covers the production while Stephanie Converie interviewed Suzie Miller for Guardian Australia. Her words to the Griffin Theatre are electric:

I am a playwright who believes in the power of theatre, believes in it with every fibre of my being. Believes in the strength of storytelling as an agent of change. Believes in audiences and in igniting imaginations so we can step into a character’s lived reality. If I am being truly honest when I ask myself: “what do I want out of theatre?”, the answer would be: I passionately want the same thing I passionately wanted as a human rights lawyer – I want to change the world. I want to work with people who believe in the power of theatre to change the world, and I want to write stories that create conversations that go beyond the theatre.

She has been writing for screen through Hoodlum, Heiress Films and Bunya Productions. 

The whole ceremony is here.

It is a far cry from the 2019 Awards, which we didn’t know was the last before the end of collective innocence. 

The full list of winners and nominees looks like this:

FEATURE FILM – ORIGINAL 

Hearts and Bones – Ben Lawrence with Beatrix Christian 

Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) – Monica Zanetti  

Unsound – Ally Burnham 

FEATURE FILM – ADAPTATION 

Penguin Bloom – Shaun Grant with Harry Cripps 

Acute Misfortune – Erik Jensen and Thomas M. Wright 

H is for Happiness – Lisa Hoppe 

The Other Lamb – C. S. McMullen 

SHORT FILM 

Carmentis – Antony Webb 

Triple Swear – Dannika Horvat 

Something Has Died In The Forest (ЩОСЬ В ЛIСI ЗДОХЛО) – Eva Justine Torkkola 

DOCUMENTARY – PUBLIC BROADCAST (INCLUDING VOD) OR EXHIBITION 

Own the Sky – Gregory Read 

Koko A Red Dog Story – Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce 

Perspective Shift: ‘Daniel’ – Genevieve Clay-Smith 

Wild Butterfly – Shireen Narayanan 

DOCUMENTARY – COMMUNITY, EDUCATIONAL AND TRAINING (OR OTHERWISE COMMISSIONED TO A SPECIFIC BRIEF) 

I am a Hazard – Christopher Burke with Distan Bach

Only one nomination

ANIMATION 

Space Nova: ‘Ghost Station’ – Thomas Duncan-Watt 

Alien TV: ‘Barbecue’ – Simon Dodd 

Kitty Is Not A Cat: Season 2, ‘Cats’ Eye-Q’ – Raymond Boseley 

Space Nova: ‘Black Hamster’ – Charlotte Rose Hamlyn 

WEB SERIES AND OTHER NON-BROADCAST/NON-‘SUBSCRIPTION VIDEO ON DEMAND’ TV SHORT WORKS 

Content – Anna Barnes 

Halal Gurls: Episode 3 and Episode 6 – Vonne Patiag with Sara Mansour 

TELEVISION – SERIAL 

The Heights: Season 2, Episode 7 – Peter Mattessi 

The Heights: Season 2, Episode 28 – Megan Palinkas 

The Heights: Season 2, Episode 29 – Romina Accurso 

The Heights: Season 2, Episode 30 – Warren Clarke

TELEVISION – SERIES OR MINISERIES OF MORE THAN 4 HOURS DURATION, INCLUDING ORIGINAL AND ADAPTED WORKS 

Total Control: Episode 3 – Pip Karmel 

Bloom: Season 2, ‘Blip’ – Glen Dolman 

Messiah: ‘He That Hath An Ear’ – Michael Petroni 

Stateless: ‘Panis Angelicus’ – Belinda Chayko 

The End: ‘With Sparkles’ – Samantha Strauss 

TELEVISION – TELEMOVIE OR MINISERIES OF 4 HOURS OR LESS DURATION, INCLUDING ORIGINAL AND ADAPTED WORKS 

The Hunting – Matthew Cormack and Niki Aken 

Hungry Ghosts – Timothy Hobart, John Ridley, Jeremy Nguyen, Alan Nguyen and Michele Lee 

CHILDREN’S TELEVISION – ‘P’ CLASSIFICATION (PRESCHOOL – UNDER 5 YEARS), ORIGINAL OR ADAPTED, ANIMATED OR PERFORMED 

Little J & Big Cuz: Season 2, ‘Goodbye Swooper’ – Erica Glynn 

Little J & Big Cuz: Season 2, ‘Desert Camp’ – Dorothy West 

Little J & Big Cuz: Season 2, ‘Finding Home’ – Beck Cole 

CHILDREN’S TELEVISION – ‘C’ CLASSIFICATION (CHILDREN’S – 5–14 YEARS), ORIGINAL OR ADAPTED, ANIMATED OR PERFORMED 

Mustangs FC: Season 3, ‘Mustangs Forever and Ever’ – Magda Wozniak 

Mustangs FC: Season 3, ‘Level Up’ – Alix Beane 

The New Legends of Monkey: Season 2, ‘Quest for Knowledge’ – Connor Van Vuuren 

The New Legends of Monkey: Season 2, ‘Shadow Boxing’ – Christiaan Van Vuuren 

COMEDY – SITUATION OR NARRATIVE 

Rosehaven: Season 4, Episode 5 – Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola

How to Stay Married: Season 2, ‘Sexting’ – Trent Roberts 

Rosehaven: Season 4, Episode 1 – Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola 

The Other Guy: Season 2, ‘The Escape Room’ – Kacie Anning 

COMEDY – SKETCH OR LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT 

The Feed: ‘Anger For Women’, ‘Chloe Shorten’s Husband’, ‘Social Media Cops’, ‘Scotophile’ and ‘Bushfire Press Release’ – Victoria Zerbst with Michael Hing, Cameron James, Alex Lee and Jenna Owen

tied with

7.30: Season 2 – Mark Humphries and Evan Williams

Direct Eye Contact – Hannah Reilly 

AUDIO 

Ghosthunter – Ben Lawrence with Jess Bineth 

Mackaroy Uncovered: Episode 3 – Paul Gartside 

STAGE 

Prima Facie – Suzie Miller 

Mary Stuart – Kate Mulvany 

Prima Facie – Suzie Miller 

The Mares – Kate Mulvany 

COMMUNITY AND YOUTH THEATRE 

A Hymn to the Hateful – Finegan Kruckemeyer 

Collapse – Grace De Morgan 

THEATRE FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES 

Cusp – Mary Anne Butler 

Forgetting to Remember – Finegan Kruckemeyer 

Normal – Katie Pollock 

One the Bear – Candice Bowers 

MUSIC THEATRE 

Fangirls – Yve Blake 

Flight Memory – Alana Valentine 

Whiteley – Justin Fleming 

David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.