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THE SAPPHIRES HONOURED AS BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK FOR 2005

Acclaimed play The Sapphires by actor and playwright Tony Briggs has taken out the 2005 Helpmann award for Best New Australian Work.

Entertainer and Helpmann winner, Paul Capsis, presented Mr Briggs with the award last night at the 2005 Helpmann award ceremony in Sydney. The Australia Council for the Arts proudly sponsors the Best New Australian Work award.

‘Thank you for bringing The Sapphires to Australian audiences,’ said Australia Council CEO Jennifer Bott, congratulating Mr Briggs on winning the Best New Australian Work award, as well as the Helpmann award for Best Play.

‘This is a unique Australian story magically transformed into a new Australian work for the stage – a story told with generosity, humour, love and music,’ she said.

The Sapphires is set in Vietnam in the 1960s. It is the story of Briggs’ mother and aunts, a group of four talented Aboriginal singers who left Australia to entertain troops during the Vietnam War.

A Melbourne Theatre Company production directed by Wesley Enoch and starring Deborah Mailman, Rachael Mazza, Lisa Flanagan and Ursula Yovich, The Sapphires played to packed houses in Sydney and Melbourne, becoming a favourite with both audiences and critics.

‘Thanks to Melbourne Theatre Company, Company B and to audiences in Melbourne and Sydney,’ said Mr Briggs, accepting the award.

The Sapphires beat strong competition to win the Best New Australian Work Award from finalists: Through the Wire by Ros Horin; Eating Ice Cream With Your Eyes Closed by David Brown; and Madeline Lee with music by John Haddock and text by John Haddock with Michael Campbell.

The Best New Australian Work Award honours outstanding work by an Australian author, composer, book writer or lyricist. The Australia Council supports and encourages the creation of new Australian work by Australian artists and is proud to sponsor the award for the first time in 2005.

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