South Africa’s best theatre performers acknowledged for their art.
The twelfth annual Naledi Theatre Awards certainly bore witness to a star-studded affair where performers and presenters helped honour both the established names and exciting newcomers to the South African theatrical firmament. The entertainment line-up was special and included GRAMMY Award winners Wouter Kellerman and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who delighted the packed audience with their craft..
For the first time, the Naledi’s presented the full Johannesburg Youth Orchestra Company, conducted by Eddie Clayton. The music was especially arranged for the event and the singers performed to live music. Other all-star entertainers included the stunning Candida Mosoma from Sister Act; Sharon Spiegel Wagner from I’m Playing Your Song; Somizi Mhlongo of Idols fame; Jonathan Roxmouth and Charon Williams-Ros, who performed a humorous piece from Sweeney Todd together.
An esteemed cast of presenters also joined the award winners beneath the spotlight. Comedian Mark Banks, with his special take on the world, was MC for the event, sharing the honours with radio and TV star Bridget Masinga. Thirty awards were made and presented by local celebrities such as Nataniël, Tobie Cronjé, Maps Maponyane, Tema Sebopedi, Motlatsi Mafatshe, Atandwa Kani, Naledi’s Chairman Dali Tambo and a number of other luminaries from the stage and screen.
Since its inception twelve years ago, the same actress has won the Best Lead Performance in a Play (Female) for the first time for two different plays. Fiona Ramsay, one of South Africa’s most prominent performers, received her award for her roles in Miss Dietrich Regrets and Doubt. Her co-star in Doubt, Janna Ramos-Violante, won the Best Supporting Actress award. Another exciting ‘first’ for Naledi was the overwhelming success of Moagi Modise’s Lepatata, directed by Makhaola Ndebele. It won the Best Ensemble category and making South African theatrical history in the process as the first Setswana play to win a major theatre award.
Another innovation this year by Naledi’s Executive Director, Dawn Lindberg, was the Lesedi Spirit of Courage Award that went to Gaynor Young, who was seriously injured during a production of the musical, Camelot at the SA State Theatre some years ago. On winning the award, Young said:
“I am overwhelmed! I am humbled at being awarded the very first Lesedi Spirit of Courage Award. Courage! That is such a noble and powerful word suggesting bravery and fearlessness. I possess neither! I am simply taking part in this wonderful thing called life. Like everyone, I have experienced downs as well as ups. I am unbelievably fortunate in that my life is surrounded by love. And that has made all the difference.”
Top honours this year went to Lara Foot’s magnificent staging of Fishers of Hope (four awards), including Best Production of a Play. The dark musical Sweeney Todd won three awards, and Nataniël’s innovative musical After Animals took home five awards. Janice Honeyman’s effervescent musical Sister Act garnered three awards, and Greg Homann’s thought-provoking Alan Paton drama, A Voice I Cannot Silence, took home three awards. Ralph Lawson, who portrayed controversial author and poet Alan Paton (Cry the Beloved Country), took the top acting accolade for Best Lead Performance in a Play (Male).
Bright new face, Menzi Mkhwane, won The Brett Goldin Award for Best Newcomer/Breakthrough Award for this production. Greg Homann and Lawson also won the award for Best New SA Script. Apart from winning the Best Production of a Play category, Fishers of Hope also provided other winners:
- Phillip Tipo Tindasa (Best Supporting Actor),
- Patrick Curtis (Best Set Design) and
- Grant van Ster (Best Original Choreographer).
Khayelihle Dom Gumede was named Best Director of a Play for his vivid interpretation of the evergreen Crepuscule about love across the colour line, while versatile Jonathan Roxmouth walked away with the Best Performance in a Musical award for his captivating lead role in Sweeney Todd. Director Steven Stead was voted Best Director of a Musical/ Revue for his production, which also received The Joan Brickhill Award for Best Production of a Musical.
Veteran musical maestro Nataniël once again stunned audiences with his out-of-the-box production of After Animals, which received an award in the Best Score/Arrangement/Adaptation category and a host of technical awards. These were for:
- Best Lighting Design (Kevin Stannet),
- Best Sound Design (Larry Pullen) and
- Best AV/Animation (Jan Hendrik Burger)
The award for Best Costume Designer, however, went to Floris Louw. Sister Act allowed singer and actress Candida Mosoma to show her true mettle as she danced off with the Best Performance in a Musical award, while Rowan Bakker, no stranger to award ceremonies, won for Best Musical Director. Phumi Mncayi was named Best Support/Featured Performance in Sister Act.
The award for Best Production for Children (supported by ASSITEJ SA (0-12)) went to Shrek The Musical JR, which was staged by Jill Girard and Keith Smith’s People’s Theatre, while Making Mandela took the honours in the Best Production for Young Audiences (Supported by ASSITEJ SA (13-17)) category. Gamelihle Bovana was recognised for his performance in James and the Giant Peach and received an award for Best Performance in a Children’s Theatre Production. Johnny Boskak is Feeling Funny received the Best Production: Cutting Edge nod for writer and co-director Craig Morris.
At this year’s glittering ceremony, Lifetime Achievement Awards were given posthumously to the late Taliep Petersen and to Cape Town’s illustrious entertainer Alvon Collison, while the World Impact Award went to the internationally renowned a cappella group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Thembi Mtshali, who has made a vast contribution to the arts over the years, and in particular to the empowerment of women, was given the Executive Director’s Award.
“The standard of excellence gets higher and higher each year, making the judges’ job of selecting winners almost tautological; ALL the nominees are winners in our eyes! […] ‘The panel sees over 70 productions each year, with over 300 nominees on the list of excellence. Judging takes place over several days with everyone on the panel allowed space to debate and discuss each and every of the 27 categories. The final votes are by secret ballot and verified by Zeridium. The process of seeing, analysing and assessing all professional productions staged in Gauteng during each year is a full-time job, which is not always acknowledged. Lack of sufficient financial support from government and commercial sponsors is a constant battle, but Naledi is proud to be internationally recognised as the bench mark of excellence in SA live theatre.” – Dawn Lindberg, Executive Director