VETERAN actress, Fiona Ramsay, made history on Tuesday, April, when she won the best lead performance in a play (female) for two different plays – Doubt and Miss Dietrich Regrets at the prestigious Naledi Theatre Awards at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City, Johannesburg.
Her co-star in Doubt, Janna Ramos-Violante, won the best supporting actress award. She was one of several actors and companies with links to KwaZulu-Natal who enjoyed a great night at the awards ceremony.
Steven Stead, artistic director of Durban-based KickStArt Theatre Company, was named best director of a musical/revue for Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
The production, which was staged in collaboration with Pieter Torien, in Johannesburg and Cape Town was also named best musical (the Joan Brickhill Award) and it’s star Jonathan Roxmouth took home the award for best performance in a musical (male).
A Voice I Cannot Silence, a play which explores Cry The Beloved Country author, Alan Paton’s position within the Liberal Party, his years as principal of the Diepkloof Reformatory, his belief in and struggle for human rights, and the complexities of his personal relationships, was another big winner.
It’s lead actor, Ralph Lawson, won the Naledi for best lead performance in a play (male), and Durban actor/writer/director, Menzi Mkhwane, won the Brett Golden Award for best newcomer/breakthrough. The play’s director, Gregg Homann, and Lawson also won the award for best new SA script.
A Voice I Cannot Silence is being staged at the Auto and General Theatre on the Square in Sandton, Johannesburg until May 7 and is then heading to The Playhouse in Durban from May 12 to 20. It will also be staged at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town from June 7 to 25.
The biggest winners this year were:
- Lara Foot’s magnificent staging of Fishers of Hope, which took home four awards – best production of a play, best supporting actor for Phillip Tipo Tindisa, best set design for Patrick Curtis and best original choreography for Grant van Ster; and
- Nataniël’s innovative musical After Animals which won five awards. These were for best lighting design (Kevin Stannet), best sound design (Larry Pullen) and best AV/animation (JanHendrik Burger), best score/arrangement/adaptation, and best costume design for Floris Louw.
Janice Honeyman’s effervescent musical Sister Act garnered three awards. Sister Act allowed singer and actress Candida Mosoma to show her true mettle and she danced off with best performance in a musical, while Rowan Bakker, no stranger to award ceremonies, won best musical director. Phumi Mncayi was named best support/featured performance for her part in Sister Act.
Khayelihle Dominique Gumede was named best director of a play for his vivid interpretation of the evergreen Crepuscule about love across the colour line; and Moagi Modise’s Lepatata won the best ensemble category, making South African theatrical history in the process as the first Setswana play to win a major theatre award. The play was directed by Makhaola Ndebele.
Another innovation this year by Naledi’s executive director, Dawn Lindberg, was the Lesedi Spirit of Courage Award which 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 awards, she 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.”
The award for best production for children (0-12) (supported by Assitej SA) 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 (13-17) (Supported by Assitej SA) category.
Gamelihle Bovana was recognised for his performance in James and the Giant Peach and received an award for best performance in a childrens’ theatre production (supported by Assitej SA).
Johnny Boskak is Feeling Funny, written by Greig Coetzee, received the best production: cutting edge nod for Craig Morris.
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 acapella 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 Sophie Mcinga emerging voice award went to Thandazile ‘Sonia’ Radebe.
Lindberg said of this year’s awards: “The standard of excellence gets higher and higher each year, making the judges’ job of selecting winners almost tortalogical; 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.”
For more information, visit http://www.naleditheatreawards.org.za