FTH:K, Clowns, celebrate win, triple nominationChristine Skinner
FTH:K and a conspiracy of clowns are feeling ‘overwhelmed and honoured’ following the accolades received for their production Benchmarks.
The show won an award and was nominated in three categories at the prestigious second annual Handspring Puppetry Awards, which were announced at the closing ceremony of the Out the Box Festival of Puppetry and Visual Theatre Festival on Sunday night.
Benchmarks won the award for The Best Puppet Manipulation as well as being nominated for The Best Visual Theatre Production and Cristina Salvoldi for The Best Puppet Design. Salvoldi is currently in New Zealand working on the film The Hobbit.
“We are feeling on top of the world and are greatly honoured to have received this award and the nominations,” said Benchmarks director Rob Murray, who is also artistic director of FTH:K and co-founder of a conspiracy of clowns. “We salute all the outstanding artistic contributors at this Festival and are humbled to be presenting our work alongside them.
“We would like to thank the National Arts Festival for providing us with the platform as part of their Main Programme this year to present Benchmarks,” said Murray. “We would also like to thank the sponsors, organisers and judges of the Out the Box Festival for growing this Festival to the size and stature it is, and in doing so increasing the significance of visual theatre in South Africa.”
Murray said a special thank you must also be extended to actress Tanya Heywood, who stepped in at one week’s notice to take over the role of Hope, the Zimbabwean refugee, from Thumeka Mzayiya. Mzayiya was injured in a car accident and fortunately is OK, but had to withdraw from performing in the show. She has been working with Heywood to coach her through the role.
Set in the Mother City, Benchmarks tells the story of an unusual friendship between a timid middle-aged Home Affairs clerk, a reclusive widow and a young Zimbabwean refugee. These three desperate and lonely individuals find themselves on a journey of discovery, companionship, tragedy, and reconciliation – one that will ultimately transform their lives forever.
Set against a backdrop of the frailties and complications of human relationships, the violence and hardships of life in South Africa and the dreams and desires for a better life, Benchmarks is a poetic celebration of the human spirit told by three performers in full character mask.
Since its premiere at the National Arts Festival, press comments have included “Rob Murray's direction is carving marks of extraordinary new kinds….” (Cue), “bewitching brew of silence and noise” (Mail and Guardian online) and “A tender piece of image theatre” (Artsblog).
Devised by the original cast from a story by Rob Murray, Benchmarks features Liezl de Kock (nominated for a Fleur du Cap Best Actress award for Womb Tide), Daniel Robinson (Paraphernalia, Joyce’s Choices) and Tanya Heywood. Thumeka Mzayiya, who originally performed the role of Hope, has performed in Inxeba lomphilisi, AMAZA and was nominated for best actress of the 2009 Pansa 48 Hour Festival and Best Actress for the 2011 Klein Libertas Festival.
Set and props design is by acclaimed designer, puppeteer and performer Craig Leo, who recently took part in a Ted Conference in the USA with Handspring Puppet Company, as well as a host of projects including Lara Bye’s production of The Flying Dutchman and Or I’ll Kiss You, Handspring's latest collaboration with the National Theatre. Leo also designed Womb Tide, for which he was nominated for Fleur du Cap and Naledi awards with Emilie Starke.
Mask design and construction is by Cristina Salvoldi; Sound design by Brydon Bolton and Jacques Toile; Costume design by Jayne Batzofin, additional choreography by Fiona du Plooy and Lighting Design by Rob Murray.
Benchmarks was first presented as part of the Main Festival Programme of the National Arts Festival and is produced by a conspiracy of clowns in association with FTH:K. A Cape Town run of Benchmarks is scheduled for 2012. Other productions to look out for from this team include Masked In-Tensions at the Intimate Theatre from 8-19 November and an exciting new production in 2012, a dark fairy tale called Little Jackie Paper.
* A conspiracy of clowns is a growing collective of independent theatre makers, clowns, musicians, mask-, light-, set-, and costume designers, friends, supporters, and fans. With an emphasis on collaboration in creation, the Conspiracy develops original, devised work that celebrates the unusual, the strange, the fantastical, and, ultimately, the extraordinary. Each production is distinctive, and through its collaborative working process, features a specific world inhabited by characters, images, and stories that are bound together by a unique poetry.
Spawned as special project of FTH:K in 2008 by Rob Murray (aka Ugli) and Liezl de Kock (aka Skweezel), and tasked to investigate the potential of non-verbal and visual theatre to be both accessible and inclusive, the Conspiracy all but reinvented mask work in SA with Pictures of You, winning a slew of awards in the process. In 2010, they were joined by the formidable Jayne Batzofin (aka GraNnY) and in 2011 launched into cabaret clown noir, creating Kardiâvale (on at this year’s National Arts Festival Arena Programme).
*FTH:K is a multi-award-winning visual theatre and education company that aims to revolutionise the South African theatre industry through the development of Deaf and hearing performer-creators. Its unique Tell-Tale Signs programme is currently training South Africa’s first generation of Deaf artists for inclusion in the professional performing arts industry. There is currently no other project like it (nor has there ever been) running in South Africa.
FTH:K recently won the inaugural Herbert Dhlomo Naledi Award for Emerging Theatre Companies at the 2010 Naledi Theatre Awards. The award recognises companies that push boundaries and take theatre into new realms of artistic expression.
FTH:K works include its award-winning performances of Pictures of You (in association with a conspiracy of clowns), GUMBO and Birds’ Eye View and the multi-award-nominated QUACK! and Womb Tide.
Visit www.fthk.co.za and www.conspiracyofclowns.co.za
What the press have said about Benchmarks
"...rich, meaningful, and innovative...Rob Murray's direction is carving marks of extraordinary new kinds..." CUE
“The masks designed by Cristina Salvoldi are incredible” Artsblog
“A tender piece of image theatre.” Artsblog
“Go, quite simply, and be moved.” Carla Lever on spreadingthewings.wordpress.com
"...interesting for its innovative approach to issues, its bewitching brew of silence and noise, its portrayal of humanity that shines through the masks and the transformative spectacle of seeing human beings reaching out to their neighbours." Mail and Guardian online
“….superb acting. .. bizarre, maddening soundscapes conjured by Brydon Bolton and Jacques Toile.” Mail and Guardian online
“…a simple, beautifully human story about relationships ….” Mail and Guardian online
“Beautiful. Benchmarks comes most highly recommended.”Megan’s Head
“...terrific” The Herald
“The beauty of this play is how the masked characters get under your skin. And in the midst of the story’s turmoil, it hangs on to the hope of the triumph of the human spirit.” Tonight
“Another exciting piece of theatre …wonderful…” City Press
“….indrukwekkend… Benchmarks, … bring weer eens ’n groot sukses op die planke. …Hou hulle dop vir ’n volgende meesterstuk.” Litnet
“…deeply moving…I was moved to tears…Benchmarks is a wonderful work and, given the chance, I’d watch it again.” Witness
“performances are executed with skill and heart “ Outtheboxfestival.com
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Web site: http://www.fthk.co.za