national Arts Festival Banner

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


(Neil Coppen, who received two awards for “Animal Farm” and a nomination for Best Director)

Now in its 11th year, the South African Naledi Theatre Awards, sponsored by Auto & General and BASA, were held at Gold Reef City last night (April 14). The awards reflect the vibrant and diverse nature of the South African theatrical landscape and are the premiere awards for theatre excellence in South Africa.

KZN lovers of good theatre will be pleased to know that Neil Coppen’s inventive take on Animal Farm received the nod in the categories Best Production for Young Audiences and Best Ensemble. He was also nominated for Best Director.

Aubrey Sekhabi’s emotive production, Marikana – The Musical swept the boards at the glittering ceremony at the Lyric Theatre, attended by the who’s who of the entertainment world.

Marikana – The Musical is an emotive and heartfelt tribute to those who lost their lives during the mining strike at Lonmin. It took six awards in the categories Best Production of a Musical for the South African State Theatre, Best Director for Aubrey Sekhabi, Best Performance in a Musical: Female for Emma Mmekwa, Best Set Design for Wilhelm Disbergen, Best Score for McKenzie Matone, Zakele Mabena and Aubrey Sekhabi, and Best Original Choreography for Thabo Rapoo.

For the first time since the inception of the prestigious awards, two performers – Jonathan Roxmouth and Brendan van Rhyn – shared the honours in the Best Performance Musical: Male category for their inspired roles in Call Me Lee (seen in Durban at Rhumbelow Theatre) and The Rocky Horror Show respectively.

Paul Slabolepszy’s Pale Natives scooped three awards; Best Production of a Play for director Bobby Heaney, Best Supporting Actor for Antony Coleman and Best Performance in a Play for Lionel Newton.

Awards were also given in the Best Musical Director category to Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and Stefan Lombard for their musical contribution to The Rocky Horror Show as the production also took awards in the Best Sound Design and Best Lighting Design categories for Akbar Khan and Daniel Galloway respectively.

Veteran playwright and actor Athol Fugard shone on the night with an award for Best New South African script for The Shadow of the Hummingbird which he shared with co-writer Paula Fourie.

Shaleen Surtie-Richards was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to South African theatre in a career that has spanned more than 30 years.

There were stunning performances on the night from ShooWop Shop; the Vuyani Dance Company performed Full Moon and renowned performers Keith Smith, Timothy Moloi and Janelle Visagie (nominated for her role as Mother Superior) performed a moving rendition of Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music. Many KZN contributors to the performing arts who had died since the last Naledi ceremony were honoured.

PJ Powers (also a Naledi nominee) belted out You are my World and Jonathan Roxmouth gave an impressive rendering of Boogie Woogie from Call Me Lee. Up-and-coming star Michael Riff Themba performed the rollicking song Happy from Peter Pan and there was a spectacular segment from Swan Lake performed by the Joburg Ballet.

Masters of ceremonies on the night were popular TV presenter, poet and actress Lebo Mashile and South Africa’s most famous puppet Chester Missing. Newly crowned Miss South Africa 2015 Liesl Laurie also made an appearance while to add a slice of beefcake to the proceedings Mr South Africa Armand du Plessis and runner up, Sibusiso Sibanda, brought on the trophies.

Celebrity presenters included Kgomotso Christopher and Jack Devnarain from Isidingo; Aubrey Poo, nominated for his performance in Marikana - the Musical; award winning director Sylvaine Strike; top TV celebrity Zuraida Jardine and Dali and Rachel Tambo.

The arrival of Topthorn from War Horse caused a sensation as he galloped onto the stage for his special World Impact Award, the first time that this has been given at the Naledi ceremony. The gigantic horse puppet, operated by a team of talented puppeteers, was created by South Africa’s own Handspring Puppet Theatre who made all the puppets for the award-winning musical which has been a massive hit around the world.

The Naledi Awards are supported by Auto & General Insurance facilitated by Carolyn Steyn, BASA, Distell, DWR Lighting, DreamSets, the Market Theatre, the South African State Theatre and founder of Computicket, Percy Tucker.

Arts angel Carolyn Steyn said:  "It is a privilege to be on the panel of judges and, to all of us, every nominee is a winner.”

Executive head of Auto & General Marketing, Carl Louw, added: “Auto & General Insurance is delighted to be a part of the Naledi Theatre Awards and we applaud the outstanding homegrown talent for carrying the South African flag so proudly.”

The Naledi Awards will be shown on eKasi Open View Channel 105 on April 25 with a later transmission scheduled later in the year on SABC3. The twitter handle is @naledi_official.