Another awards ceremony is behind us and yet again we find that there is strong opinion about the evening. You need only hit the social networking sites to find opinions of every variety regarding the 2010 Lyrebird Awards. With smart-phones in hand, the status updates and tweets were coming in thick and fast during the ceremony last Saturday night.

Now I will not make mention of any individual’s comments about the awards, rather I have gauged the overall response to the event and I also have my own opinions on the evening that I plan to share with the readership. Of course all of us attend these evenings with different motivations. Perhaps as a performer, a nominee, a critic or in most people’s case it is just a chance for us to socialise with friends.

As I sit here writing this I am filled with mixed opinion about the evening. Sure at points I was having a great time, surrounded by friends and enjoying the opportunity to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a long time, and then there were the times where I found myself squirming in my seat.

General sentiment of the evening was that the social side (as always) was alive and well. The excitement of the night was evident early and after plenty of drinking and dancing many left with the eager anticipation of the after party. That said, the ceremony, food, and general formalities of the evening were less than brilliant and left me wondering if a change in format might give the whole evening a bit more credibility.

The evening began with opening comments from the Lyrebird’s president Julia Roper, and to her credit she kept it short and sweet. In fact to the credit of the Lyrebird awards, the entire ceremony was kept short, something I think the Victorian Music Theatre Guild can learn from.

The problem is that the current format is boring and the content of the evening’s performances was less than inspiring.

Speaking to audience members after the ceremony it was clear to me that there were real issues with the evening’s performances. Firstly they were not an appropriate reflection of the community’s performances from the 2010 season, they were plagued with audio problems and appeared under-rehearsed. Suggestions too that there was at least one number that was inappropriate for an awards ceremony was common conversation.

I was particularly baffled by the fact that shows nominated in key award categories were not performing on the night and instead we got a mix of SLAMS concerts and a particularly baffling closing number that had absolutely zero relevance to the previous twelve months in eastern suburban theatre.

The judging also appeared to be a bit of a mystery to those in attendance. Productions taking out ‘best show’ categories weren’t winning other key awards for cast and production values and at least one direction award went to a show that didn’t really feature through out the rest of the evening. The methodology behind judging always baffles me and I guess in the end none of us really knows what the judges are looking for.

Ceremony aside, the night (true to form) picked up with the social element providing a great time for all. If you can put aside the fact that the food was well below par and that nobody cared to listen during the annual raffle, then the rest of the evening was a relative success. The beer and wine was flowing and laughter of course filled the air, whilst dancing took centre stage. This is where the Lyrebirds always succeed and make the night memorable.

Reflecting on the evening I believe that the Lyrebirds can significantly improve if they change their format. Consider the following: What is working? The ceremony is clearly not whilst the reception is. Perhaps it’s time for us to jump straight into a sit down dinner while the awards are presented, thus eliminating the need for the boring old ceremony and allowing more time to dance up a storm at the end of the night. In the end, though, this is just one man’s opinion… Oh no wait… Facebook tells me it is the opinion of many and that it has been like that since about 2 minutes in to Saturday night’s show.

Michael Butler