What Remains, written by Nadia Davids, received an award for Best New South African Script. Picture: John Gutierrez

Cape Town - What Remains, a controversial play dealing with the thorny issue of land, social heritage and forced removals, scooped five awards at the Fleur du Cap awards last night, just one of several quality productions that was recognised. 

The Who's Who of the performing arts community attended a glitzy ceremony at the Baxter Theatre where a deserving list of dramas, musicals and operas and the creatives involved, were honoured.

What Remains, written by Nadia Davids received an award for Best New South African Script; while the cast won an award for Best Performance by an Ensemble,  Faniswa Yisa as Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a play, Jay Pather as Best Director, and William Disberg was recognised for Best Lighting Design for the play.

It was launched at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival last year and then performed in Cape Town to much acclaim. 

Davids' play takes Prestwich Place and its historical significance as the core inspiration of the production, focusing on the huge furore that erupted in 2003 when, during construction for an exclusive development in Green Point, the bones and remains of slaves and washerwomen and other descendants were discovered, then ceremonially relocated.

In interview last year she commented, “I was so deeply intrigued when the bones came to the surface. It raised in me a creative rather than an analytical response...

“There are cities that have very dark places - and we can also ask ourselves, who speaks for the dead? Places like Prestwich Place and District Six can be regarded as an unfinished part of our social heritage. ... Slavery in the Cape is a history full of silence and unresolved sorrow. And unresolved histories have a way of making themselves known. It is a play about how history erupts and disrupts the present.”

King Kong, a remake of the landmark musical of 1956, scooped three big awards.

Edith Plaatjies won an award as best female lead in a musical or music theatre show playing Joyce in King Kong. Picture: Daniel Rutland Manners

When it first ran, it made history with its multi-racial cast that travelled overseas during the height of apartheid.

The reincarnation of this ebullient drama about boxing legend Ezekiel Dlamini was so popular that it returned for a second run earlier this year and Edith Plaatjies won an award as best female lead in a musical or music theatre show playing Joyce; while Sanda Shandu was honoured for best performance as supporting actor, playing the conniving gangster Lucky. 

Meanwhile the talented Charl-Johan Lingenfelder was recognised for best sound design in the performance for original music composition.

Meanwhile, Marat/Sade - The Baxter Theatre (Nicolette Moses) was named as best production.

Marat/Sade - The Baxter Theatre (Nicolette Moses) was named as best production.

David Dennis won best performance by a lead actor in a musical for his role in Priscilla Queen of the Desert as Bernadette and his female counterpart in best supporting role was the charming Isabella Jane playing the mistress of Juan Peron in Evita. 

Craig Morris in Tartuffe won best performance as lead actor in a play as Madame Pernelle in Tartuffe.

David Dennis won best performance by a lead actor in a musical for his role as Bernadette in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht

Nico Scheepers was awarded as best new director and  Gideon Lombard, for his sensitive portrayal as Marnus in Die Reuk van Appels, won best performance in a revue, cabaret or one-man show.

The award for the most promising student went to Luntu Masiza, AFDA; the award for best theatre production for Children and Young People to Jon Keavy for The Underground Library; and Greg King scooped an award for best set design for Suddenly the Storm.

Leigh Bishop and Lieze van Tonder in Twelfth Night won Best Costume Design; while in the same performance Mark Elderkin as Malvolio won best actor in a supporting role.  

Robyn Scott in Shakespeare in Love as Elizabeth I, Ensemble scooped the award as his female counterpart as best performance by supporting actress in a play.

Lukhanyo Moyake in Rigoletto as The Duke of Mantua, won best performance in a opera while Johanni van Oostrum in Der Fliegende Holländer as Senta won for female best performance in opera.

Lukhanyo Moyake in Rigoletto as The Duke of Mantua, won best male performance in a opera.

An award for innovation in theatre went to the Imbewu Trust and Kunste Onbeperk.

Finally, veteran performer and well-loved Cape Town personality Alvon Collison, received a lifetime achievement award for his many decades in showbiz and entertained the audience with some fond reminiscences of his earlier days and was joined in song by friend and theatre personality and actor Richard Loring.

Winners at the 53rd annual Fleur du Caps were chosen from productions performed at professional theatre venues in and around Cape Town. A total of 115 productions from the year under review were eligible for consideration. The awards were considered in 26 different categories.

The event was hosted by Africa Melane, supported by a variety of leading ladies who have previously been acknowledged on our stages and have garnered the coveted Fleur du Cap Theatre Award, including Lara Foot, Janice Honeyman, Quanita Adams, Jill Levenberg, Susan Danford, Jennifer Steyn, Celeste Matthews, Sive Gubangxa, Ntomboxolo Makhutshi, Emily Child, Tara-Louise Notcutt and Daneel van der Walt. 

The award ceremony was directed by Alistair Izobell and the receptive audience gave warm applause as top female artists entertained, including, Elwira Standili, Salomé Damon, Sasha-Lee Davids, Lucy Tops, Andrea Anthony, Tye Platinum and the band Sweet Chilli. Assistant director and choreographer Grant van Ster provided the accompanying flair with performances by dancers Luke de Kock, Craig Pedro, Elvis Sibeko, Buyile Narwele, Mikayla Isaacs, SimonéWelgemoed, Gabrielle Botha and Caitlin Smith.

Five MakuAsh Residency students from Makukhanye Art Room, as part of their training supported the backstage team.

The judges were Africa Melane, Dr Beverley Brommert, theatre critic for The Cape Argus and sister paper the Cape Times, Eugene Yiga, Johan van Lill, Marina Griebenow, Maurice Carpede, Niel Roux, Tracey Saunders and Wayne Muller. The panel was chaired by non-voting Melanie Burke.