'Of Human Bondage', 'London Road' top the Dora Awards in Toronto Special

Posted Jun 24, 2014 by Jeff Cottrill
It was an evening full of bondage and murder at the Dora Mavor Moore Awards last night — with local productions “Of Human Bondage,” “Venus in Fur” and “London Road” among the big winners at the annual awards ceremony for theatre in Toronto.
Carly Street wins the Dora for Outstanding Performance by a Female  General Theatre  for her role in...
Carly Street wins the Dora for Outstanding Performance by a Female, General Theatre, for her role in Canadian Stage's "Venus in Fur".
Soulpepper’s Of Human Bondage, a stage adaptation of the classic W. Somerset Maugham novel, was the biggest star at the 35th annual Doras, which took place at Harbourfront Centre’s WestJet Stage. The play picked up seven awards in the General Theatre categories, including Doras for Outstanding Production, Direction (Albert Schultz), New Play (adapted by Vern Thiessen) and Ensemble Performance.
But bondage of a kinkier kind was a major theme of another winning play, Canadian Stage’s hit production of David Ives’ dark comedy Venus in Fur, which won the Audience Choice Award as well as the one for Outstanding Performance by a Female (General Theatre) for Carly Street.
Upon winning, Street gave half the credit for her award to her Venus co-star, Rick Miller. “This is a total sharesies,” she said.
The experimental British musical murder story London Road, another CanStage production, dominated the Musical Theatre categories with six Doras, including awards for Outstanding Production, Direction (Jackie Maxwell), Performance by a Male (Damien Atkins), Ensemble Performance and Musical Direction (Reza Jacobs).
“We went into this going, ‘we’re not quite sure, but what the hell,’” Maxwell said from the awards podium, referring to the show’s musical complexity and overall eccentricity. She credited the cast for the show’s success, calling it “an ensemble piece from beginning to end”.
Other big winners included: Young People’s Theatre’s Sultans of the Street, which swept the Theatre for Young Audiences categories; Vitals, which walked away with the awards for Outstanding Production and New Play (both in Independent Theatre); and the Canadian Opera Company’s Roberto Devereux, which won for Outstanding Production (Opera).
The Silver Ticket Award, which is a Dora for lifetime achievement, went to stage, film and TV veteran Diana Leblanc.
“I’m Montreal-born,” Leblanc said upon accepting her award. “I’ve been here [Toronto] since the ’60s, and this has been a wonderful place for me.”
Schultz, who is Soulpepper’s founding artistic director, also had kind words to say about his home city when he received his award for directing Bondage. “This community makes this city special,” he said, referring to Toronto’s theatre scene.
Schultz added that he had loved working on the play. “Every single day of this project was pure bliss.”
The only arguable note of drama in an otherwise conventional awards night was when Ken MacDonald, who won Outstanding Scenic Design (Musical Theatre) for Tarragon Theatre’s Marry Me a Little, took a shot at Toronto Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian for having called MacDonald’s visual concept for the show “the dullest set I can recall in the 40 years I’ve seen his work.”
It was a warm, cloudy, damp night by the waterfront at the outdoor WestJet Stage; the evening had begun with pouring rain, but it had conveniently stopped by the time hosts Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram first took the stage. The stage has a roof-like covering, but the audience still got to enjoy a decent view of the CN Tower and part of the Rogers Centre (and lots of condos) during a show that paid tribute to the city’s diverse theatre community.
Snieckus and Baram, members of acclaimed improv troupe The National Theatre of the World, carried the show effortlessly with jokes and routines galore. “We decided to get rid of the walls,” Baram said during the pair’s opening bit, referring to the WestJet Stage’s open concept. During a segment acknowledging the longevity of several Canadian theatre organizations, including the 50-year-old Ontario Arts Council (OAC), Baram wisecracked, “Congratulations, OAC – that is a lot of rejection letters.”
Other fun moments from the hosts: the opening of a purported time capsule from the first Dora ceremony in 1980 (which Snieckus jokingly called “Ken Gass’s personal stash” upon finding bags of cocaine and unmarked bills); a photo montage of past Dora moments — in which Snieckus and Baram had photoshopped themselves in disguise alongside the likes of Fiona Reid and others; and an attempt at short-form improv game Make Another Choice. Meanwhile, musical director Waylen Miki had the task, often an unenviable one, of playing long-winded winners off the stage.
Other major winners of the night included: Harbourfront Centre’s own what we are saying and Mies Julie, taking awards for Outstanding Production (Dance) and Touring Production respectively; Joel Ivany’s Figaro’s Wedding, winning for Outstanding New Musical/Opera; and Mirvish’s recent remount of Les Misérables, which took Doras for Outstanding Female Performance (Melissa O’Neil) and Costume Design in the Musical Theatre categories.
The full list of 2014 Dora winners is available online at