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The local performing arts world filled the Lyric Theatre to hear who had won a Naledi. Judy Page and Thandi Klaasen got lifetime achievement awards.
PERFORMING artists, directors and producers and behind-the-scenes experts were acknowledged at the Naledi Theatre Awards, which celebrate local theatre and reward its artists for their excellence.

BjornBest newcomer: Bjorn BlignautThe glamorous event was held at the Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City on 5 March. On the night, the venue was packed with guests who loudly applauded those who won accolades throughout the show.

The musical Dreamgirls, which was nominated 10 times in different categories, walked away with three awards – for best performance in a musical, which was taken by Lindiwe Bungane; for best newcomer, which was taken by Bjorn Blignaut; and for best performance by an actress in a supporting role, taken by Candida Mosoma.

Blignaut played Jimmy Ali in the musical, which was staged at Montecasino in 2011. He said he did not expect to win as he had never done any type of acting before. “This is an overwhelming experience. I never thought I would ever win or be nominated for anything,” he said.

The singer, who has tried his luck on reality television shows such as Idols and Pop Stars, said he thought theatre was where his heart lay at and that he wanted to take it further. “Being nominated and winning showed me that my talent was being recognised,” said Blignaut.

Also from Johannesburg was the Mandela Trilogy, which was also staged at Montecasino last year. The production won three awards out of eight nominations. It received best production of a musical and best theatre lighting design.

The Pirates of Penzance scored three awards for best original choreography: play or musical; best ensemble production/cutting edge; and best comedy performance. It was staged at the Old Mutual Theatre on the Square in Sandton last year.

Also walking away with trophies was Combat: Nataniël. It won two awards, out of six nominations – for best costume design and best performance in a musical (male). The State Theatre’s Rivonia Trial walked away with three awards. Among them was the best performance in a lead role, won by Sello Maake ka Ncube.

Sello Maake kaNcubeAccolade for Sello Maake Ka NcubeMaake Ka Ncube said he had played the role of Mandela in the show. In his acceptance speech, he thanked the director, Aubrey Sekhabi, who he said had dragged him by his underpants to play the part. “Playing Mandela was daunting,” he admitted.

The winners
There was almost a score of winners:

Best theatre set design: Michael Mitchell – Mandela Trilogy;
Best costume design: Floris Louw – Combat: Nataniël;
Best theatre lighting design: Faheem Bardien – Mandela Trilogy;
Best theatre sound design/sound effects: Mark Malherbe – Jesus Christ Superstar;
Best production of a play or musical for children: African Adventure – produced by Paisley Production in association with South African National Parks, directed by Jesse Christelis and Zak Hendrikz;
Best community theatre: DET Boys High – produced by the South African State Theatre in association with Sibikwa Arts Centre, written and directed by Smal Ndaba and Phyllis Klotz;
Best original choreography: play or musical: Shelley Adriaanzen – The Pirates of Penzance;
Best musical director / score / arrangement: Eddie Clayton (musical director), Peter McLea (arrangements) and Janine Neethling (composer) – Tree Aan!;
Best ensemble production / cutting edge: The Pirates of Penzance – produced by Daphne Kuhn and Old Mutual Theatre on the Square in association with the South African State Theatre, directed by Greg Homann;
Best performance by an actor in a supporting role / cameo: Clyde Berning – The History Boys;
Best comedy performance: play or musical: David Dennis – The Pirates of Penzance;
Best director: play or musical: Aubrey Sekhabi – Rivonia Trial;
Best performance in a musical (male): Nataniël – Combat:Nataniël;
Best production of a play: The History Boys – produced by Pieter Toerien and directed by Alan Swerdlow;
Best performance by an actress in a lead role (play): Robyn Scott – London Road;
Best new South African script (musical or play): Rivonia Trial – produced by the South African State Theatre, directed by Aubrey Sekhabi, and written by Aubrey Sekhabi, Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom and Mandla Dube;
Best production of a musical: Mandela Trilogy – produced by Cape Town Opera in collaboration with Rand Merchant Bank, and written and directed by Michael Williams;
Lifetime awards: Judy Page and Thandi Klaasen; and
Executive directors award: Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler of the Handspring Puppet Company for Warhorse.
Lifetime Achievement award for Thandi KlaasenLifetime Achievement award for Thandi KlaasenThe Naledi Theatre Awards were established nine years ago to recognise and reward excellence in the performing arts, to raise the profile of live theatre and to create awareness of the abundant talent on South African stages, explained Dawn Lindberg, the executive director of the awards.

Since they were established, over 50 lifetime achievers such as veteran artists, technicians and administrators had been honoured. “It has been a challenging and rectifying journey,” Lindberg admitted.

There was a lot of world-class talent in this country that was not recognised. She described the winners as uniquely special and assured all nominees that they were among the best. Lindberg advised young people wanting to pursue a career in performing arts to get the necessary training so they could learn the discipline of the industry.

“You need to get an agent because producers will only use people who are under the agent because they know that they are reliable,” she advised. “You have to have more than talent, [you have to have] star quality, be extra special.”

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