The best of new works on the National Arts Festival’s Fringe were celebrated at at the Standard Bank Ovation Awards function at the Monument in Makhanda on Saturday night.
Artistic innovation, excellence, the exploration of new performance styles and the courage to open new conversation through the arts underpin the motivation for the winners of the Standard Bank Ovation Award.
“From the solo performers, carrying their set in a hold-all, to the epic four-dozen strong cast of the Amandla Danca Teatro ZA company for EMATHONGENI, with their van laden with instruments and costumes, the Fringe had it all and continues to be the largest platform in South Africa for artists to share their wealth of talent and audiences to bask in the magic and wonder of it all,” said Tracey Saunders, convenor of this year’s awards.
GALLERY: Ovation Award 2018 winners
The Ovation Awards help audiences – and producers – to identify quality work on the Fringe. The awards also act as a bridge between the Fringe and the Main programme, with all winning productions invited to put forward proposals for the Arena programme.
Saunders worked with a panel who, between them, saw almost every new production on the Festival Fringe, with a third of the 320 works on the Fringe eligible for consideration.
“As has been evident in recent years, the Fringe reflects the zeitgeist of the nation and one was left with very little doubt that we are country reeling under the tyranny of male violence and sexual assault,” said Saunders. “Theatre and even dance productions addressed these themes, some more successfully than others. There were those who simply mirrored our society back at us, an uncomfortable experience for 60 minutes in a darkened theatre. Others presented causes, motives and possible solutions and one walked out of the venue with a faint glimmer of hope.”
Since the awards’ inception in 2010, there have been 167 Standard Bank Ovations awarded. A total of 57 Silver awards and only 17 Golds have been awarded.
Saunders said this year’s Gold Ovation winners reflected the success of art forms that fall outside the traditional definitions of theatre. In J BOBS LIVE, Jefferson Tshabalala presented “a game show style, interactive, hilarious and thought-provoking event, which encourages self-reflection and a deeper appreciation of the challenges that South Africans face”.
MEDUMO YA BORWA celebrated the history of the monarchy in a feast of song and dance with an aesthetic that made use of South African traditional attire, and SULLIED, which although primarily a dance piece, wove poetry and spoken word in between the carefully choreographed movements, stitched with pain and wrapped in kangas.
“One of the characteristics of work that struck a nerve was that it wasn’t presented exclusively in English. Xhosa, Pedi, Sotho, Tswana,” said Saunders. “Each and every one of the official languages resonated across the stages and if you were looking for a whirlwind tour through the regions of South Africa, a ticket on the Fringe would have guaranteed you that.”
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 (please see the separate press release about the winners of the Student Awards).
“While awards are essentially a subjective measure of an art form which is essentially immeasurable, they are not infallible. But given the continued success of various award winners over the years, the Ovations are as a reliable predictor as any of who and what to watch.”
Gold Standard Bank Ovation Award winners
- MEDUMO YA BORWA (The best African Song and Dance thriller)
- J. BOBS LIVE: OFF THE RECORD – Jefferson Tshabalala
- SULLIED –Kirsti-Leigh Gresse
Silver Standard Bank Ovation Award winners
- BLUE PERIOD OF MILTON VAN DER SPUY – Hexagon Theatre
- THE REVLON GIRL – Search for Productions
- EMATHONGENI – Amandla Dança Teatro ZA
- MARENE – Marene
Standard Bank Ovation Winners
- ANDY NDLAZILWANA
- DECEPTIVE DELIGHTS WITH STUART LIGHTBODY – Stuart Lightbody
- DUO KP – Peter Cartwright
- GARY THOMAS: MOODSHIP – Gary Thomas
- GASLIGHT – Laine Butler
- I’M HIV AND LIVING – Thando Mbulelo Mbanjwa
- LETTERS WITH MA’SISULU – FMA-Neo Motsatse
- MEDUSA INCARNATE – Kate Pinchuck in collaboration with The Furies
- NOMABOTWE SINGS
- PHOKWANE CHRONICLES – Galeshewe Theatre Organisation
- SAINTHOOD – Tiisetso Mashifane wa Noni
- SILKWORM – Contagious
- THE DEAD CHANT IN DEATH – Tshwane University of Technology
- THE ISLAND – Paxinos Productions & CYBTT
- TSWALO – Theatreduo
- UNONO OBUYILE – Lumunyano Dance Group
Standard Bank Ovation Encore Award winners
Standard Bank Ovation Encore Awards recognise merit and potential in works that can be developed.
- BEST FRIENDS/WORST ENEMIES
- CHOIR BOY
- LIFT CLUB
- LOVE IN THE TIME OF REVOLUTION
- NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION
- SATANIC DAGGA ORGY
- DEVILS AT A DEAD END
Ovations Award panel
Our thanks to the judges of the 2018 panel for the time, dedication and robust debate: Tracey Saunders (convenor), Alon Nashman, Amelda Brand, Andrew Mulenga, Gopala Davies, Greg MacArthur, Hugo Theart, Kiroshan Naidoo, Luvuyo Yanta, Marcus Desando, Motlatji Ditodi, Namisa Mdlalose, Octavian Siau, Phemelo Helleman, Rafiek Mammon, Reggie Danster, Temba Ncetani and Thulani Nongogo.
Some winners of Standard Bank Ovation Awards at previous Festivals include:
- 2018 Featured Artist Mamela Nyamza – Okutya Phantsi Kwempumlo/The Meal (2012)
- 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music Guy Buttery – Gold Ovation Award (2010), plus five Ovation Awards
- 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre Jemma Kahn – Two Silver Awards (The Epicene Butcher and Other Stories for Consenting Adults in 2012; We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants: 7 Deadly New Stories in 2015)
- Gavin Krastin (#OMNOMNOM)
- Artscape Theatre – 15 productions; one in partnership
- Kalk Bay Theatre – seven, including four in partnership
- ExploSIV Productions – six, with one in partnership
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.