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CONTEMPORARY THEATRE READINGS DURBAN WINNERS (article first published : 2005-11-16)

The winners of the Durban leg of the NLDTF/PANSA Festival of Contemporary Theatre Readings (one- and two-hander category) were announced at the closure of the event on November 13 at The Catalina Theatre, Wilson's Wharf.

Hans Pienaar (Gauteng) was declared the Best Writer for his script, Double Bill while Phillippa Yaa de Villiers (Gauteng) was awarded the runner-up prize by the jury for her script, Where the Children Live. Best Director went to Andre Stolz, also of Gauteng, who staged and directed Pienaar's script and won R10,000. The audience vote was a tie, with Pienaar and de Villiers sharing this award of R15,000.

An elated Hans Pienaar walked off with a R30,000 cash prize, an invitation to stage his work at the PANSA KZN Musho! Festival in January 2006 and a commitment from PANSA to arrange a tour of the winning play as a full-scale production in 2006. Pienaar is a journalist with the Independent Newspapers group, specialising in the coverage of the rest of Africa. In 2002 he began producing his own theatre pieces, culminating in Ching Chong Che, a critical look at the cult of the freedom fighter. He also began exhibiting "photopoems", poems accompanying photos taken in Africa, the Middle East and China. In 2002 he self-published his acclaimed poetry collection, Die Taal van VoŽls. Ching Chong Che, published in 2003, contained the text of the play and a memoir on his retracing of the footsteps of Che Guevara in the rebel-held eastern Congo.

Hans Pienaar is currently working on a play on Afrikaner hero Paul Kruger's illegitimate offspring, and an English translation of Kom Terug Saartjie, a play about Saartjie Baartman and Charlize Theron, which he produced at KKNK 2005.

Double Bill is the working title for a set of two-handers: Madiba Street and Conscientious Objection.

Madiba Street is a satire about a man who gets lost in a certain suburb because all the streets are named after Nelson Mandela and all the statues are of him. He meets up with a hijacker who is doing market research on the most popular cars on the street for a website set up by his gang. He is dyslexic and eventually kidnaps the man to force him to write his English exams in his place. Conscientious Objection is about a young man who can't make up his mind whether he is exploiting his girl friend, and has long quarrels with his anthropomorphic conscience about it. The award-winning piece was directed by Andre Stolz and performed by Neels Clasen and Jacques Blignaut.

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers won R15,000 as the runner-up, with her play Where the Children Live. , Having been trained at the Jacques Lecoq School of Theatre in Paris, de Villiers is an accomplished performer and has also written for a number of television series. She is a novice performing poet and currently is a candidate on the British Council and Lancaster University's mentorship programme for writers, Crossing Borders.

Where the Children Live is based on the writer's life story and explores the non-science of racial identity in a society hell-bent on reversing the injustice of apartheid. The characters navigate a cynical world where, despite all efforts, your skin tone is a passport to first or second class citizenship, to find meaning, love, and a place where they can simply be themselves. The style is experimental: poetry, prose, science fiction, satire and film. The piece was performed by de Villiers and Harriet Manamela and directed by Vanessa Cooke.

The third finalist was Mike van Graan with his script, Mixed Metaphors, directed by Cape-based Jaco Bouwer and performed by Ndoni Khanyile and Oscar Petersen. The play broaches - among others - the theme of the role of the arts and of artists in contemporary society. It focuses on the tension created by the dialogue between David Petersen, a protest poet and Thandi Njobe, an ambitious young journalist.

In addition to the cash prizes, the winners all received beautiful hand-crafted statuettes or totems made especially for the occasion by KZN artist, Wendy Nell. The awards were handed out by Jay Pather, National Chairperson of PANSA.

The three judges - Veronica Baxter, Tamar Meskin and Edmund Mhlongo - praised the festival for encouraging new writing and expressed a desire to see more platforms of this kind that "tell South African stories in unique and expressive ways". The calibre of performers and directors was noted as a high point of the event, as was the excellent quality of the scripts themselves. The weekend was filled with lively debate, discussion and feedback, providing the writers with a useful participatory situation in which to test their scripts and receive input from both judges and audience.

The staged readings were presented in association with The Catalina Theatre and generously supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the Royal Netherlands Embassy.

Further information from the PANSA National Office on 011 492 3211 or e-mail pansa@artslink.co.za




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