Awards and ovations at Festival

WORDS: Remy Raitt  PHOTOS: Sarah Schäfer


Yesterday morning Grahamstown woke up to a much less festive landscape. The National Arts Festival has come to an end and although a few production posters still litter the streets, reminding locals of the cultural whirlwind that just swept through. They and the rest of the country now have to wait till next year to be wowed once again by the 10 days of AMAZING!

The French Season, which began in Grahamstown, will run for another five months in our country. The opening act in the little Eastern Cape city did more than just show South Africans what is happening in the cultural realms on the other side of the equator. It also showed what our two countries have in common; cultural diversity, innovative economies, excellent universities, technological expertise and a deep appreciation for the arts. The French imports at the Festival will now be shared with the rest of the country, showing at various towns and cities until November 2012. Our must see suggestions? The dance piece Pudique Acide/Extasis, moving music by Carine Bonnefroy and an Afternoon of a Foehn’s unbelievably innovative adventure into the depths of the imagination.

Our French feast in Grahamstown was peppered with a dash of Italian. The deliciously simple theatre piece Manolibera combined the talents of two mediums, drawing and acting, to unfurl a comical tale of a man and his wife and their effort to find adventure. But unlike any other theatre piece we saw during Festival, these two characters had a secret weapon; a narrator of sorts, who mapped out the whole script through live drawings and pre-drawn cartoons that were projected on a white sheet that the two actors performed in front of. The audience, ranging in age, beamed throughout the show while the older members in the crowd picked up on the piece’s social commentary on material excess. 

Although the international offerings were highly enjoyable, we ended off our Grahamstown experience with one of South Africa’s most revered musicians –  Chris Chameleon. Focusing on his less frequently performed work from Blue Chameleon, Boo! and his solo career, the charming performer elicited a string of oohs and aahs as his vocal chords produced out of this world sounds and tones. 

With the wide range of excellent productions on offer in this year’s Fringe program The National Arts Festival had a tough job deciding on the winners of the coveted Gold and Silver 2012 Standard Bank Ovation Awards. But somehow they managed, and we could not agree more with their decisions. The arts journalists and editors on the panel selected one Gold and eight Silver awards, which were presented on Sunday by Festival Director Ismail Mahomed. In addition, three Encore awards were made to emerging companies the Festival wants to see return, and a new Aha! award was bestowed on an artist who has created something surprising and innovative.

 “The aim of the Standard Bank Ovation Awards is to acknowledge excellence on the Fringe,” said Festival CEO Tony Lankester. “They demonstrate the huge value there is in investing time and talent into Fringe productions.”

The only Gold award at this year’s Festival was presented to Nicola Hanekom for her theatre production Hol. Jemma Kahn was awarded a Silver for The Epicene Butcher And Other Stories For Consenting Adults and Greg Homan also received one for directing Mike van Graan’s Brothers in Blood. 

In the Dance category Vuyani Dance Theatre received a Silver award for their production Mayhem while Jori Snell was awarded a Silver in the Family Theatre category for Kitchen Fables in a Cookie Jar.

Two winners of 2011 Ovation awards were re-awarded prizes this year. The master of mentalism Stuart Lightbody received a Silver for Dark Imaginings, as did guitarist Guy Buttery for his collaboration with Nibs van der Spuy in the Music category. A second Music Silver was also awarded to The Muffinz.

The final award was made to comedian David Kibuuka, who was given a Silver award in the Comedy & Variety category.

Encore awards were presented to individuals or productions that made a noteworthy contribution towards the Festival Fringe in various capacities, or who have shown significant potential. Three encores were named; Galeshewe Theatre Organisation for Goon; The Runaway Bunny Collective for Wintersweet; and the Keiskamma Music Academy. Gavin Kraston was given an Aha! award for The Satirical Fruit Salad. 

Playwright and activist Mike van Graan was given the Standing Ovation Award for his sustained contribution to the Festival over the years.

All of these Ovation winners will be invited to submit a proposal to perform on the 2013 Arena Festival. We have no doubt they will bring it, so we suggest you start planning your trip to the National Arts Festival 2013 now.