AFDA JHB Honours Live Performance wins Standard Bank Ovation Award at NAF! 

Jul 1, 2022 | Awards, News

Whistleblowers, directed by Rob Murray and Quintijn Relouw, has recently won a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the 2022 National Arts Festival (NAF).

The Standard Bank Ovation Awards recognise the best Fringe productions of the NAF. They seek out gems through the Fringe programme, an independent platform of the NAF, where people can bring and submit their productions. The criteria to win ranges from the best audience-pleaser to technical innovation.

“We have a long list of celebrations following our Motion Picture projects” says Francois Smit, Head of Postgraduate in AFDA Johannesburg, “and for many years I’ve been pushing Rob Murray, Head of Live Performance at AFDA JHB,  for an Live Performance decoration. In 2018, we received a Special Mention for Visual Design (Lebitso) and in 2019, we received an award for Best Ensemble (Phitlho) – but this is the first time we have won an outright Standard Bank Ovation Award for the quality and impact of our work. We are beyond proud and thrilled for this exceptional and passionate group of young women tackling a very serious topic in South Africa in such an innovative and entertaining way.”

Whistleblowers tackles the themes of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and sexual assault through the lens of a high school girls’ hockey match. It is the final game of the season, and the championship title is on the line. But the stakes are much bigger than that, as the play reveals back-stories and situations that the young women have been experiencing. As the lines between the game and social commentary start blurring, and the team finds a collective voice of anger and frustration at the plight of women in this country, the team needs to make a vital choice: attack or defend.

Shifting between physical and visual performance, searing storytelling, and surrealist dream sequences, Whistleblowers is an honest and tragicomic call to action. A war cry for the soul.

It has been created and performed by Reabetswe Gaentswe, Boitshepo Maile, Kgaogelo Makgoba, Modipadi Mokgohloa, and Phindiwe Qakoshe, with a special appearance by Quintijn Relouw.

“Working with Quintijn has been amazing and inspiring”, says Rob Murray, Head of Live Performance at AFDA JHB, “we started speaking about the possibilities of him coming here to work with me and my students a long time ago, and luckily his institution (Toneelakademie Maastricht) was totally on board with that. We hope it grows a longer and more prosperous connection between them and AFDA.”

Whistleblowers premiered at the AFDA JHB Experimental Festival, where it had an immediate impact. This was carried through to its NAF run, which saw weeping audiences, standing ovations, and the production hailed as one of the most talked-about shows at the festival. Steve Kretzmann, veteran journalist and arts critic, and this year’s editor in chief of The Cue, writes: “So many women killed, raped, mutilated, left for dead. We know their names, some of them, most we don’t, or forget. They are all here, legions of our guilt and our ghosts, all murdered by men. These five performers bring them to raging life, with the desire for vengeance only the living can give to the dead. They are in your face, blood pumping through their veins. The energy is at cup fever pitch. This is a game that has to be won…None of this is played out directly, yet the message seeps through, becoming louder and clearer as the often dreamlike sequences layer upon each other. It is a solid team, well directed with touches of physical comedy reining in the didactic, with imaginative use of set and wonderful touches of mask work…Whistleblowers is a winning work.” (see the full review here ).

“I think the most wonderful thing”, adds Murray, “is that through the show we are seeing young performers find their voices and stand tall amongst their professional peers. They have grabbed the opportunity with both hands collectively and individually, and while we don’t do shows for awards or prestige, to be recognised for their hard work and passion is just gravy on a delicious meal.”

Whistleblowers is currently negotiating further JHB shows, as well as more of a national tour throughout South Africa in 2023. It will definitely be on at the AFDA Graduation Festival in November this year. Stay tuned for more details.

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