More than two hundred productions premiered on the Fringe at The National Arts Festival this year, it was no easy feat for the Ovations Awards panel to make their way through the Festival’s theatres to select work that stood out and made audiences stand up.
Tracey Saunders, convenor of the 2017 panel, said that the range of work on offer was diverse – from delicate, solo work to large, chaotic ensembles and several permutations in between.
“A willingness to take risks was evident in many productions and in several instances it paid off. Exciting work came from unexpected places and if the Fringe reflects the state of the performing arts in the country, it is bold, vibrant and angry.”
Read on for Tracey Saunders’ insights into the award winning work at the 2017 National Arts Festival and further for news of the Student Theatre Award winners.
GOLD – STANDARD BANK OVATION AWARDS 2017
HANI: THE LEGACY by Market Theatre Laboratory (Theatre)
TAU by One Man and His Dog and The Market Theatre (Theatre)
SILVER – STANDARD BANK OVATION AWARDS 2017
BAYEPHI by Thembela Madliki (Theatre)
HUMAN PIECES II by The South African Theatre Village (Theatre)
IN(S)KIN by Artscape (Theatre)
SILENT SCARS by Calvin Ratladi Foundation/Zabalaza Theatre Festival (Theatre)
TATS NKONZO IS PRIVILEGED by ExploSIV Productions (Comedy)
STANDARD BANK OVATION AWARDS 2017
180 PUNCHLINES! (THREE LAUGHS A MINUTE) by Alan Committie (Comedy)
ACOUSTIC ME by LoveChild (Music)
AGONY by Thistle Productions (Theatre)
AU REVOIR by Followspot Productions (Comedy)
CATTLE DRIVE by Theatre for Africa (Theatre)
CELEBRATION: MUSIC OF AMERICAN COMPOSERS by Althea Waites (Classical Music)
DEAR MR GOVERNMENT, PLEASE MAY I HAVE A MEETING WITH YOU EVEN THOUGH I AM ONLY SIX YEARS OLD? by UJ Arts and Culture (Theatre)
DIKAPAPA by Generation of Stars (Physical Theatre)
DOWN TO A SUNLESS SEA by Wind Up Mind (Dance)
EKURHULENI JAZZ ENSEMBLE (Music)
FIRE HOUSE by Hijinks Theatre (Theatre)
FLAMEBOOK by Jo Kinda – MDALI (Theatre)
GUY BUTTERY (Music)
MOLORA by Tshwane University of Technology (Theatre)
NIJINSKY’S WAR by Leftfoot Productions (Theatre)
SAMTHING SOWETO (Music)
STATE FRACTURE by ExploSIV Productions (Comedy)
SYRIA? by Artscape (Theatre)
THE DEVIL AND BILLY MARKHAM by Contagious (Theatre)
THE KAFFIRS by Gauteng Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts & Culture (Theatre)
WELCOME TO THE ZOO by ZikkaZimba and Hijinks Theatre (Theatre)
ADDITIONAL STANDARD BANK OVATION AWARDS 2017
Encore Award for BATTLES! – IIMFAZWE! (Storytelling Tour)
Encore Award for MOMENTUM by the 34/18 Youth Dance Company (Dance)
Encore Award for OPERA FOUND (Classical Music)
Encore Award for SINGING CHAMELEON by Ditshimega Domain (Storytelling/Performance Art)
Encore Award for SPIRITUAL WALK (Theatre)
Merit Award for KUBILI (TWO) by Musa Hlatshwayo/Mhayise Productions (Dance)
Stand Out Performance by Daniel Richards in STATE FRACTURE (Comedy)
SPECIAL STANDARD BANK OVATION AWARDS 2017
Standing Ovation was awarded to musician Steve Newman
Standing Ovation was awarded to Tony Lankester to mark 10 years National Arts Festival CEO
Insights into the works on the National Arts Festival Fringe and winning Standard Bank Ovation Awards, from the 2017 panel convenor of the Standard Bank Ovation Awards:
Many of the theatre productions addressed political themes and interrogated the absence of social justice. Through the eyes of a child in IZIM LE TOILET, students in WELCOME TO THE ZOO and the widows of miners in A WOMEN’S TEARS, frustration and a quest for justice were unifying features.
There was a palpable anger in much of the work and the scourge of sexual violence and femicide was addressed on stage by many actors. In the comedy genre identity politics and the unique character of South Africans provided ample material for comedians but the ones that struck a chord were those that sourced the punchline from their own lived experience.
Our collective and individual pasts were scrutinised and excavated with the retelling of our history and the reclamation of neglected narratives a dominant theme.
The Gold winning HANI: THE LEGACY was a heart wrenching and soul searching portrayal of Hani’s life and the failed responsibility we bear in not honouring it. The hip-hop, rap musical was flawless in its delivery and careful attention to detail from the torn rainbows on costumes to the slick choreography ensured that this production received resounding standing ovations.
TAU’S exploration of masculinity through a very specific cultural practice reflected a universal search for a less toxic masculine identity. Bold, unapologetic and confident enough to not present a happy ending, this was a powerful production that resonated with audiences regardless of the language they spoke.
The recipients of the Gold and Silver Ovation Awards are testament to the benefit of investing resources, both financial and creative, in young theatre makers. TAU, HANI: THE LEGACY, SYRIA, IN(S)KIN and SILENT SCARS have received some support from The Market Theatre, Artscape, the State Theatre and the Baxter Theatre respectively The responsibility of these institutions to develop and nurture work cannot be stressed enough and the model of supporting existing independent production companies and theatre makers is essential if productions such as these are to see a life beyond the Fringe .
Although Fringe participants didn’t necessarily respond to the curated theme of disruption what was evident was the disruption of genres with the seamless integration of choreography into many theatre productions and the heightened theatricality evident in dance and some musical works.
Artists working on the Fringe occupy a unique space and they have generously shared their vantage point with us. As they point us to the direction that the performing arts is headed to in South Africa, they beckon us to venture forth towards new horizons. It may not always be a comfortable journey, but it sure as hell is going to be exciting. I’m keen to accept the invitation, will you?
The 2017 panel was convened by Tracey Saunders. Panel members were Jade Bowers, Lara Bye, Motlatji Ditodi, Mhlanguli George, Caryn Green, Mwenya Kabwe, Lliane Loots, Zanele Madiba, Alby Michaels, Jayne Morgan, Nobesuthu Rayi, Sarah Roberson, Warona Seane, Mareli Stolp, Hugo Theart, Simon Tibbs and Lee-Ann van Rooi.
The Student Theatre Awards
This year the Student Fest was integrated into the Fringe. The NAF Festival Office said, “The aim of this was to provide a realistic experience of performing at a Festival.” The productions therefore needed to follow the rules of the Fringe and meet the demands of the tight technical rehearsal schedule, and they had to make choices that sat well within the spatial limitations of their respective Fringe venues.
Convenor of the Student Theatre Advisory Panel, Greg Homann said, “The work presented on the Student Festival this year was generally of a high level with most of the students choosing to create new plays that explore issues close to their lived experience. We saw many excellent performances and some incredibly impressive ensemble work.”
Student Theatre Award for Best Production
MOLORA from Tshwane University of Technology’s Drama & Film Department
Directed by Kopano Maema
Student Theatre Award for Best Original Work
CULT CLIT from Rhodes University Drama Department
Directed by Mmatumisang Motsisi
Student Theatre Merit Award for Original Work
POP ICHERI from The Market Theatre Laboratory
Written by Ncumisa Ndimeni & Nosipho Buthelezi
Award for Best Stage Manager
Manoko Tlhako from Rhodes University Drama Department
Student Theatre Award for Best Marketing & Publicity for a Student Theatre Production
Not awarded in 2017
MOLORA was an excellent staging of Yaël Farber’s text, with the ensemble cast and creative team integrating strong choreographic elements, superb ensemble vocal work and singing, with a clear commitment to telling the story. CULT CLIT impressed with its clear vision and unified team. Here the choreography, design and tight performance ensemble elements worked harmoniously to create an entirely cohesive and powerful original theatre production.
The student advisory team made special mention of POP ICHERI from the Market Theatre’s Lab. Homann said, “This work made use of strong ensemble work, clear storytelling, and a good sense of theatrical style to explore the issue of awarding ‘virgin bursaries’ to university students.”
Special mention was also made of THE CITIZEN created by students from Law, Accounting, and other departments across the University of the Western Cape. These students collaborated with the Gender Equity Unit at the University of the Western Cape to create a work that encapsulates a commitment to using theatre as a platform for students to explore their own personal experiences and narratives, and in so doing, to empower themselves and the audience who saw the work.
The Student Festival’s advisory team this year included Mwenya Kabwe, Tracey Saunders, Lara Bye, Thami akaMbongo, Liiane Loots, and Nobesuthu Rayi. It was headed up by Greg Homann. Only work created by students was eligible for awards.