Much of the work performed on the Student Festival at this year’s National Arts Festival demonstrated that students are grappling with the politics of gender.

This is the second consecutive year that the Student Festival was integrated into the Fringe, giving students a realistic experience of performing at the Festival.

Motlatji Ditodi of the student advisory panel said, “One student spoke about his experience of devising a play about manhood and explained that he hadn’t yet figured out what it means to be a man in the 21st century, but that he knows it has something to do with being a human first. This seemingly simple statement sums up the hope I have that young artists are continuing to use theatre to wrestle with gender inequality .”

Fellow advisory panel member Greg Homann added, “Almost all the work we saw over the Festival tackled the issues of gender dynamics in courageous and unflinching ways.”

There were nine entries in total from higher-learning institutions across South Africa. The work presented included seven new works written and / or devised by students, one dance work, and one adaptation of a world-drama classic into a South African context.

Only productions created by students were eligible for the Student Festival awards but all the student theatre work was eligible for Standard Bank Ovation Awards.

Tracey Sunders from the Standard Bank Ovations Committee said: “This year, the student work that was staged alongside other Fringe productions held its own and a number of works presented by recent alumni of tertiary institutions were deeply satisfying and highly entertaining.”

THE DEAD CHANT IN DEATH from Tshwane University of Technology was not eligible for a Student Festival award but was acknowledged by winning a Standard Bank Ovation Award.nLOVE IN THE TIME OF REVOLUTION (also not eligible for Student Festival awards) from the Moving Assembly Project & Nelson Mandela University Department of Arts, Culture, & Heritage and DEVIL AT A DEAD END from the University of the Witwatersrand both received a Standard Bank Ovation Encore Award, which recognised the merit and potential for these works to be developed further.

Winners of the Student Festival Awards

Award for Best Ensemble: The cast of SEEING RED from Rhodes University Drama Department. This dynamic and impressive all-female cast created a fictional village of characters through which they explored social and cultural taboos associated with the menstrual cycle.

Award for Best Director: Kashifa Sithole for DEVIL AT A DEAD END from the University of the Witwatersrand. This production used simple staging devices and well-pitched performances to deliver a delicately crafted work that told the moving story of a woman who is dealing with having been sexually assaulted on a train.

Award for Best Production: MAROSE from the Market Theatre Laboratory. Here a strong ensemble cast created a stylistically bold and hard-hitting work that uncompromisingly asked the question, “What is a man?”

The awards for Best Stage Manager and the best marketing and publicity for a student theatre production were not awarded in 2018.

Special mention was also made of the design of LEBITSO, a work created by students from AFDA Johannesburg and Østfold University College / Norwegian Theatre Academy. These students collaborated to create a visually rich physical theatre work.

The Student Festival’s advisory panel this year was Motlatji Ditodi and Greg Homann, with additional input from Tracey Saunders and Nobesuthu Rayi.

Forward to #NAF19

  • The 2019 National Arts Festival will take place from 27 June to 7 July.
  • The Call for Proposals for 2019 National Arts Festival Main programme is now open. See this link for further details. Deadline for submissions is 15 August 2018.

Main image: A scene from LEBITSO by AFDA