2017 ActewAGL  Canberra Area Theatre Awards Judging Panel

Judges are selected on the basis of their availability, expertise, knowledge and commitment to the CAT Awards policy and philosophy, and must:

  • possess relevant experience or relevant knowledge in the performing arts
  • be committed to and be able to demonstrate that they adhere to the CAT Judges code of ethics
  • be available to attend performances in the ACT and region as required
  • attend monthly judges meetings
  • participate in CAT Awards official events as required
  • act as an individual, not as a representative of any company that the judge is associated with.

Note: Judges are selected in line with the above criteria and not on the basis of any company association.

Judges demonstrate their enthusiasm and support for the theatre by donating their time and skills. Accommodation for regional visits is paid by the CAT Awards, but judges pay all other travel costs and meals.

We periodically seek expressions of interest for new judges, via the website, letters to member companies and social media.

Thanks to the many previous judges who have given generously of their time and effort since the inception of the CAT Awards.


Naida Blackley OAM

Naida Blackley is the current Principal of the Education Directorate’s Instrumental Music Program. She has been a teacher for 32 years in the ACT mainly in secondary schools and has spent many years behind the music stand too as both a performer and conductor. Her passion is to engage and enthuse students to discover playing an instrument and then to continue this lifelong learning and playing. It is all about opportunity—her buzz word.

Naida has worked with bands in schools and across ACT undertaking a number of international tours with the ACT Senior Concert Band, forming relationships through music across the globe. She has been the musical director for the Step into the Limelight public school showcase since its inception 10 years ago.

Naida was awarded an OAM for services to music education in 2013.


Edwin Briggs

Edwin’s theatrical experience encompasses dance, drama and musical theatre.

He studied jazz and tap dancing with the Braemar School, modern dance with the Human Veins Dance Theatre and classical ballet with the Bryan Lawrence School of Ballet (and its later incarnation the National Capital Ballet School). For the National Capital Dancers he performed the roles of Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker, Dr Coppelius in Coppelia, both Jasper and the Captain in Pineapple Poll, Theseus in The Dream, and various roles in Façade and Midstream.

Choreographic credits include Showboat and The Sentimental Bloke for Canberra Philharmonic, Lola Montez for Canberra Rep, La Belle Helene for Canberra Opera and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and The King and I for Tempo.

Roles include Frank Schulz in Showboat; Mordred in Camelot; the Jester in Once Upon a Mattress; The Stror ‘At Coot in The Sentimental Bloke; Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice; Spintho in Androcles and the Lion; Gerry Mander in The Pied Piper; the Fireman in The Bald Prima Donna; and various roles in Oh! What A Lovely War.

Edwin’s experience also includes TV commercials and corporate videos, and in his younger days he choreographed and appeared in numerous fashion parades.


Sarah Byrne

Sarah Byrne is a lawyer with a long history of involvement in the Arts, not least ten years fronting her jazz quartet Frequently Asked Questions, and five as vocalist for the Spectrum Big Band. Although she has not acted since she was a student she is an avid consumer of all types of theatre, seeing around 100 shows every year. She has been a board member of the Canberra City Band, Canberra Repertory Theatre Society, and Music ACT, and was a founding member of the Canberra Musicians Club. Amongst other non-Arts-related appointments she is currently a member of the Megalo Print Studio Public Funds Committee and the organising committee for the 2017 World Mystery Convention in Toronto. She is a five-time judge of the Ned Kelly awards for Australian crime writing, and a regular panellist at book conventions in Australia and the US.


Peter Cox

Peter has directed well over one hundred school, community and professional productions. The most successful of these shows being Jesus Christ Superstar for the Wagga School of Arts Community Theatre and the RTC blockbuster Chicago. He has also directed successful productions of Les Miserables, The Boy From Oz, My Fair Lady and Away for the Wagga Civic Theatre.

In 2005 he wrote and directed the comedy hit GASP! A Gilbert and Sullivan Parody in conjunction with the RTC. His other cabaret writing credits include Pelvis – the man who would be King, Tom Jones and Friends, Meatloaf, The Fabulous Chandeliers, The Divine Miss Bette, Blondes, and the Latino comedy cabaret group Los Nachos Trios. Many of these shows continue to wow audiences in many venues throughout Australia.

Peter Co-wrote a manic one-hour version of The Hound of The Baskervilles. A production of this play was a hit at the 2006 Melbourne Fringe Festival and was also performed at the 2007 Melbourne International Comedy festival.

Peter has written and directed several short films for both the Fifteen X Fifteen and Tropfest Short Film Festivals. His most successful writing and directing credit would have to be the staged concert of Cat Stevens music entitled, Moonshadow, starring Darren Coggan. The show has gained outstanding responses from many state and interstate venues.

Peter spent 2008 to 2013 Peter’s writing the screenplay with Mark Grentell for the feature film, Backyard Ashes, starrring CAT Awards patron John Wood.

In 2015 Peter again collaborated with Mark Grentell on The Wonderful Lizard of Oz, staged outdoors as part of the 2015 Australia Day celebrations in Wagga Wagga.


Peter Dark

Peter is a performer known for musical theatre character roles, although he has been active in the theatre community in a variety of other capacities. Starting with the Queanbeyan Players in 1977, he first performed in Canberra in 1979, in productions for Canberra Repertory Society and Canberra Theatre Trust. He has had a long involvement with Rep, Canberra’s premier pro-am theatre group, including at various times as a member of the Play Selection Committee and then as its Convener, as a member of Council, as President, and as a continuing member of the set building team.

Peter has also performed with the then Canberra Lieder Society, the Band of the Royal Military College Duntroon, Tempo Theatre in its heyday, Alpha Children’s Theatre (since disbanded), Philo (Canberra Philharmonic Society), and Supa Productions.

Peter’s recent roles have included Max von Mayerling in The Q’s production of Sunset Boulevard, Colonel Pickering in Queanbeyan Players’ production of My Fair Lady, and J.J. Peachum in Rep’s production of The Threepenny Opera. Other highlights have included CAT Award nominations for his roles as the Mikado in Queanbeyan Players’ production of The Mikado and Herr Schultz in Philo’s production of Cabaret, and roles in the Canberra Theatre Trust productions of HMS Pinafore (featuring Dennis Olsen and the late June Bronhill), A Christmas Carol (as Bob Cratchit, with Dennis Olsen as Scrooge) and Pirates of Penzance (as the Sergeant of Police, with Reg Livermore as the Major-General).


Paul Dion

Paul Dion brings to the CAT team 40 years of wide-ranging experience as a professional musician, arranger/composer, and cabaret artist. He’s backed many visiting overseas artists including Shirley Bassey, the Bee Gees, Judith Durham, Lovelace Watkins, Dickie Valentine, Bruce Forsythe and Frank Ifield among others and has performed as a soloist entertainer in his own right both in Australia and overseas. He is equally at home on clarinet, flute, saxophone and piano.

He sang as an operatic tenor with the Australian Opera Chorus between 1990 and 1995 in operas including Turandot, The Pearl Fishers, Madam Butterfly, The Mastersingers of Nuremburg and others.  This is where he developed a taste for theatre and has since penned several musicals. His first, Prix D’Amour (The Price of Love – the story of Rose and Lang Hancock) was awarded Best Original Work in the 2010 Canberra Area Theatre Awards. Always keen to encourage others in the pursuit of excellence (especially the young), Paul believes the Canberra Area Theatre Awards play a vital part in raising the Australian theatrical bar.


Janice Harris

Janice has been involved in dance, drama and musical theatre since taking her first dance class at the age of five.

She has trained in tap, jazz, modern, classical, Irish, Scottish and ballroom dance.

She was principal of her own dance school for many years and has directed and choreographed more than 50 productions for Orange Theatre Company including Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar, 42nd Street Street, Les Miserables, The Boy from Oz, The Wizard of Oz, The Merry Widow, The Wedding Singer, Pirates of Penzance, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Phantom of the Opera, to name just a few.

Janice has had a long association with the awards after being involved as a category winner on two occasions in the past.

She is a life member of Orange Theatre Company and was inducted into the Community Theatre Hall of Fame in 2010 and her love of theatre has run parallel to a career as a journalist.

“I am honoured to have been invited to join the judging panel and look forward enthusiastically to my involvement,” she said.


Jordan Kelly
Jordan Kelly

Jordan is a Canberra-based dancer and performer who has been involved in the Canberra theatre scene for almost 16 years. Whether on stage or behind the scenes he has worked on close to 70 productions or events. He has danced in the USA and Europe, at nightclub launches, Gala Balls and has appeared on TV commercials, TV shows and in music videos. He has received CAT Award nominations for his performances of Rum Tum Tugger in Cats (2007) and Bernardo in West Side Story (2009).

Jordan is also an established choreographer having choreographed for a fair few local theatre companies and has received CAT award nominations for his work on  Wizard of Oz (2000), Shout (2006), High school Musical (2007), Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2010) Hair (2012) and Eurobeat (2013). His credits also include two seasons of Rent, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and the multi-award winning production of Avenue Q to name just a few. He has choreographed for cover bands, fashion parades, Rock Eisteddfods, dance festivals and choreographed and performed at charity events and awards nights. He is a fitness instructor, has been a judge for the annual primary schools story, music and dance competition Wakakirri, and previously been a dance teacher. He even choreographs bridal waltzes.

In 2012 Jordan choreographed and featured in his first feature film, Theatre of the Dead, and in 2013 was the choreographer and flash mob organiser for ‘Smack Bang (In The Middle)’, a song written for the Canberra Centenary.

He was assistant director for Back to the 80s (2004), and Hair (2012) and in 2013 made his debut as a director with Footloose.

In 2011 Jordan won the Gold CAT Award for Outstanding Achievement in Performance & Choreography. In 2012 he won the Canberra Critics Circle Dance Award for his performance and choreography work throughout the year. In 2013 he won the Judges Choice award, with singing partner Jenny Williams, for their performance in the singing competition Canberra Takes Two, raising money for SIDS Kids.


Cris Kennedy

A proud Canberran, Cris Kennedy has worked for a number of our great public institutions in communications and programming. As film critic for The Canberra Times, Cris writes about film and the arts. He is a passionate advocate for collaborative opportunities between the arts and sciences, working as Artistic Director for the science film festival SCINEMA, and curating symposia on arts and science (SPECTRA, 2012) and dance and science (DANscienCE, 2013, 2015). For many years he ran Canberra’s arthouse cinema Electric Shadows, and he was the founding Director of the Canberra Short Film Festival, which celebrated its  19th birthday in 2015.

Cris’s community and volunteer work include hosting ‘Rave Review’ on 2XX in the early 90s and was for many years a tutor for Barnardos Tutoring Program, earning him ACT Volunteer of the Year in 2007. He was a member of the team that ran the Bent Lenses film group for many years.


Tony Magee

Photo and bio coming soon.


Ian McLean
Ian McLean AM CSC

Ian McLean served as a professional musician with the Australian Army for almost 35 years. His career included postings throughout Australia and the UK and was highlighted by his 8 years as Officer Commanding/Music Director of the Royal Military College Band. During his time at Duntroon he initiated the still popular Music at Midday concert series, undertook three operational tours to Bougainville, performed ceremonial duties at Buckingham Palace for a month and was musical advisor/producer for the Tour of Duty concert in East Timor in December 1999.
He resigned in 2001 to accept an appointment as CEO, Canberra Symphony Orchestra.

During his 20 years in Canberra he has been active in all facets of music making. He has conducted 20 productions for the Canberra Philharmonic Society including all four seasons of Les Miserables. He directs the Blamey Street Big Band, plays drums with the Leisa Keen jazz trio and is a judge for the Canberra Area Theatre (CAT) Awards.

For ‘outstanding service to the Band of the Royal Military College’ Ian was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) in the 1996 Australia Day Honours List. In 2003 he received the Centenary of Federation medal for his ‘outstanding contribution to musical life in Canberra’ and in 2004, 2006 and 2007 won Canberra Critics Circle Awards for Music.

He is the founder and conductor of the Canberra Pops Orchestra which premiered in 2005, sits on the Board of Directors of numerous arts organizations, is a music/theatre reviewer with City News, presents the Thursday morning ‘Sounds Early’ radio program on Artsound FM and runs his own music/entertainment agency.

In January 2009 he returned to the Australian Army accepting a three year appointment as Director of Music—Army. In the 2009 Australia Day Honours List he was awarded an AM in the General Division for his services to music and the community.


Chris Neal

Chris has been involved in musical theatre for the last 15 years. He is passionate about music and staging, and likes to see boundaries pushed to make a show that extra bit more impressive.

From a predominantly technical background Chris specialises in Lighting and Sound, owing a Canberra based production company supplying technical and design services for Musical Theatre and stage productions. Chris is an active Audio and Lighting designer and designs many shows in and around Canberra every year. He is passionate about raising the bar and adding a wow factor to local productions. His efforts have earned him CAT Awards for Best Lighting Designer for Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats (Canberra Philharmonic Society); and Pink Floyd’s The Wall (Supa Productions).

In Chris’s non-professional career he is an acomplished musician and is also seen playing in the odd pit orchestra. As a guitarist and clarinet player he is often
referred to as Ian Mclean’s musician of choice! When Chris is not working in a theatre he can be found fulfilling his thrill seeking ventures jumping, swinging, flying or skiing down the side of various mountains. This keeps him well grounded for his Cat Judge duties!


Charles Oliver

Charles has appeared in many musicals, both amateur and professional. Notable roles include Fagin in Oliver!, Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Pellinore in Camelot, John Styx in Orpheus in the Underworld and the King in Supa’s production of Big River. He has made numerous appearances in Canberra Rep’s Old Time Music Hall.

Charles has done cabaret work and appeared at Tarzan’s Theatre Restaurant, Southern Cross Club and Ainslie Football Club. He has appeared with the the Band of the Royal Military College, Duntroon and toured with the Tasmanian Army Band in 1986.

Recently he has become one of Canberra’s leading pantomime dames appearing in Cinderella, Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood.


Oliver Raymond OAM

Oliver has been a CAT judge since 1995.

President of Canberra Repertory for three years (1990-93) after four as Vice-President, Oliver appeared in five seasons of Repertory’s Old Time Music Hall both as soloist and in barbershop quartets. He was Musical Director, co-Director and performer in a Music Hall presented by St Paul’s Church, Manuka. He was involved in the Canberra Scout Gang Show for seven years (1978-84), variously as performer, writer, composer, assistant director, musical director and executive chairman.

Oliver’s solo vocal performances have included some for Art Song Canberra, Opera ACT and the ACT Singers. Over 15 years from 1996 he and his pianist friend the late Neville Chynoweth gave many concerts, always including some songs by Noel Coward and Flanders & Swann. He is President and a Life Member of Art Song Canberra.

Having sung in many chamber and other choirs throughout his life, Oliver is a long-standing member and former President of the Oriana Chorale (a leading Canberra chamber choir). He was Choirmaster at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Manuka, for twelve years and Director of Music for five (after all, liturgy is just another form of theatre!). Oliver conducts Harmonia Monday, mixed choir of U3A, Canberra.

Oliver was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the community through music, theatre and Scouting.


Andrew Snell

Andrew is an experienced lighting and production designer. He has worked with productions and performers around Canberra and Australia at levels from school and community groups to professional, international companies, and everything in between.

A highlight of his career was as touring lighting designer for the award winning Jon English in the Rock Show productions between 2010-2013, which included The Rock Show, Rock Show More and Rock Revolution. These gave him the opportunity to help tell the story of rock as a theatrical production to audiences from regional areas to major cities (and a DVD).

He has a keen eye for detail, focusing on little bits of brilliance building a whole. Andrew enjoys seeing talent develop and creativity flourish – he has been lucky to work with inspiring people and has been known to get carried away with taking things as far as they can go. He has even been tricked to appearing in front of the camera on a few occasions.

Outside of his production life, Andrew is a product designer, communications and business strategist and entrepreneur. He is a passionate technologist and loves seeing ideas on and off stage come to life!


Anne Somes

In 2007, Anne joined the CAT Award team as a judge. She has seen much exciting and engaging theatre, dance and musicianship in the performances which she has attended both in Canberra and the surrounding districts.

Anne formed Free-Rain Theatre Company in 1995 and this is the 17th year the company has been in production. Free-Rain Theatre Company was the Company in Residence at the Currong Contemporary Arts Theatre in 1999. Free-Rain has been based at the Courtyard Studio since 2000. The company has received many awards for direction, best play, acting and costume design. It was awarded Best Play in the Canberra Area Theatre Awards for A Property of the Clan, Cosi and A Month of Sundays, The Seven Year Itch, The Shape of Things plus Best Director for Anne in 1997 for A Property of the Clan and The Baby with the Bathwater then again in 1999 for Flowers for Algernon with Marist College. Anne was awarded the Kate Peters Award for outstanding contribution to theatre in the community through her work with young people in 2003. A Month of Sundays was very successful in the 2005 Telstra Countrywide Canberra Area Theatre Awards winning 4 awards as was The Seven Year Itch in 2007 winning 3 awards. In 2008, The Shape of Things won Best Play and Best Actor and Actress in a Leading Role. Anne will next direct Tessa Bremner’s new work The Dark Side of Midnight in October 2011.


Peter Twiss

Peter joined the CAT Awards team as a judge in 2017.  He has enjoyed and continues to enjoy many theatre productions around Australia, frequently attending professional and amateur shows in the Canberra region.

Peter first became involved in the performing arts as a member of the Bendigo Youth Choir and Helen O’Grady Drama Academy from a young age.  Since then he has performed in various musicals including A Tale of Two Cities, The Wizard of Oz, and Witches of Eastwick. He also played Sam, a lead role in Cloudstreet, and directed a production of Betty’s Summer Vacation.

Currently, Peter is an active singer in the Canberra Gay and Lesbian Qwire which performs regularly in the Canberra region, toured in Ireland in 2014 and is planning is to tour Germany in 2018.


Don Whitbread OAM

Don is a freelance conductor. He has his own music consultancy – Music Co-ordination Australia – and is Artistic Adviser for ACFEA Tour Consultants in Australia, an international company which specialises in concert tours for performing groups.

However Don is probably best known as the founder (with wife Barbara) and for 28 years Director of the Woden Valley Youth Choir. From 1969 until he retired from the Choir at the end of 1996 it built up an enviable reputation both nationally and internationally. Under Don’s direction the WVYC completed highly successful tours of the West Coast of USA/Canada, Japan, New Zealand, UK/Europe and United States.

Don has broad musical tastes and originally studied piano before moving in to choral singing and conducting. An experienced adjudicator, Don has been on judging panels for the former ABC Vocal and Instrumental Competition, the Shell Aria Competition, and has adjudicated for the National Eisteddfod, the St. Cecilia Music Scholarships (Eurobodalla Shire) and the ACT Lieder Society’s Festival of Song.

He also presents workshops on conducting and choral technique. An experienced conductor of music theatre, he conducted ten shows for Canberra Philharmonic Society including Showboat, The Music Man, Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific, White Horse Inn, My Fair Lady, The Pirates of Penzance, Guys and Dolls, The Sentimental Bloke and Oliver!. He was also MD for the Canberra Theatre Trust’s production of HMS Pinafore which starred Dennis Olsen and June Bronhill and Figaro on Tour for Opera ACT.

He has also conducted the RMC Band, the Canberra Youth Orchestra and Canberra Symphony Orchestra. He was a member of the Council of the Canberra School of Music for 5 years and the ACT Arts Development Board for 2 years and is currently on the Board of the Wesley Music Foundation (which sponsors young music scholars).

Don was awarded an OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) in 1980 for service to music, the Rotary Award for Vocational Excellence in 1984, was made a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary in 1996, is a Life Member of Canberra Philharmonic and was Canberra Citizen of the Year in 1997. In 2001 he was also named by The Canberra Times in its 75th Anniversary Year as one of the 75 Faces of Canberra that have helped shape Canberra.


Coralie Wood OAM

Coralie has been in the theatrical limelight both on and off the stage for many years, but is known firstly as a publicist, secondly as one of the founders of the CAT Awards, thirdly as a sometime actress and one woman performer and lastly as a normal housewife from Curtin ACT!

Born in Melbourne, commencing her career as one of those dreadful little girls with curls in pantomimes, she acted her way through life on the stage, ending her acting career by marrying and settling in Canberra. Life as an Air Force wife became a little tedious, so Coralie branched out into her first love of acting in a 4 year season of the wedding smash hit Dimboola, which led onto her becoming the publicist for the Canberra Theatre Centre.

After learning the ropes she was introduced to entrepreneurs such as Michael Edgley, Kevin Jacobsen, Garry Van Egmond and Adrian Bohm, just to mention a few and branched out on her own as Coralie Wood Publicity. Many years later, she and Kate Peters decided that not enough was being done for the wonderful amateur communities and thus the Canberra Area Theatre Awards were born.

Coralie now drives the CAT Awards together with her judges and now so many years on a dream has become a reality. The publicity company is still in existence, publicising such shows as Fame, St Petersburg Ballet, Peter Ustinov, Barry Humphries, the Moscow Circus, Cirque du Soleil and many more but the CAT Awards will always be her favourite venture.


Peter Young

Peter is no stranger to the stage and small screen, starting his singing and acting training at the age of 5 at the now defunct NSW branch of the Johnny Young Talent School. A child actor, he spent his young years appearing in TV campaigns for McDonalds, DuPont Stainmaster Carpet, Reese’s Pieces, Ghostbusters toys and Watties Stir Fry, as well as spending a great deal of his high school years camped out in the bowels of the ABC studios at Gore Hill starring in the TV series Australia Place and Swap Shop. He made his professional theatre debut at the Belvoir Street Theatre in Defecating Jesus.

Heeding his parents’ advice to get a fallback occupation, Peter graduated as a physiotherapist in 1998 and soon found himself strutting the stages of Bathurst’s Carillon Theatrical Society in 42nd St, Oliver! and Little Shop of Horrors, receiving CAT Award nominations for the latter two.

Decamping to London and Wales for five years, Peter joined the Colstars of Aberdare and had a ball appearing in My Fair Lady and the pantomime Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood.

Returning to Australia in 2008, Peter moved to Orange where he appeared onstage in Rock on Broadway, The King and I (as Lun Tha), Jekyll and Hyde (as General Glossop), The Boy From Oz and Cats (as Munkustrap) for Orange Theatre Company.

Graduating to the Director’s chair, Peter won his first CAT Award for Best Director for his debut with You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown in 2009. He then helmed successful productions of The Wedding Singer, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (appearing in the cast as Chip Tolentino as well) and Avenue Q (also performing onstage as Princeton).

Peter won his second CAT Award for Best Director (with Scott Halls) for The Witches of Eastwick. His tenure with Orange Theatre Company as a Director, Treasurer and President concluded with The Phantom of the Opera in 2013, which also saw a sold out tour of Dubbo.

Peter completed the Director course at NIDA in 2011 and is now a freelance screenwriter following his graduation with an Advanced Diploma in Screenwriting (Series Television) from AFTRS in 2015.

Peter was the resident film critic and pop culture writer for the Central Western Daily, a Fairfax newspaper, and is now a regular guest on ABC Central West radio to talk all things cinema.


Previous CAT Award Judges

Sophie Benassi 2014–2015
Jan Carey 1998–2008
Barry Casey 2012–2013
Ruth Edwards 1998–2000
Dave Evans 2012–2014
David Gilkes 2002–2007
Bill Jayett 2011–2016
Andrew Kay 1996–2007
Malcolm Leech 1995
Terry O’Connor 2011–2016
Kate Peters 1995–1996
Stephen Pike 1997–2015
Jacqui Richards 2008–2012
Norma Robertson 1996–2016
Graham Robertson 2016–2017
Rose Shorney 2008–2013
Garrick Smith 2009–2011
Michael Sparks 2016
Liz St Clair Long 2015–2017
Bronwyn Sullivan 2009–2011
John Thomson 1995–2007
Mary Vincent 1995–1997, 1999
Derek Walker 2011
David Whitbread 1995–2014
Michael White 2001–2002
Stuart Young 1996–2000