The Durban Theatre Awards

The Durban Theatre Awards…..what a night! It is something that I pray I will remember for a long, long time. Gaynor Rising had been nominated for 3 awards: Best SA script, Best production of the year and Best Actress. I was totally stunned when I heard. My show had been nominated 3 times. I looked at the people I had been nominated against and I knew that I didn’t have much of a chance. But just to have been nominated was reward enough. I would go to The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, drink their wine, eat their snacks, mix with all my theatre friends and simply have a ball!

And that is exactly what I did! My cousin, Judith, came with me as my partner and Steven and B also came. The difference being that they had to pay R50 for their tickets! Shirley Tollman, my psycho-therapist, was also there which practically moved me to tears. I had seen her on Monday morning and told her of my Awards Ceremony that night. She then came!

I looked sensational, I have to admit. I wore the dress that I wear in my show. It is an off the shoulder, figure hugging dress. I am feeling good at the moment because I weigh 57 kilos. The last time I weighed that is about 5 years ago! Also my hair has grown. It is shoulder length and looks good. So when Steven arrived to pick me up I fairly floated to the car!

I had privately had this small hope that I might win Best SA Script. If there was a chance of me winning any of the Awards it was that one. That hope proved fruitless so I sat back and simply enjoyed the ceremony. One of the numbers that they did in between the awards was Lets Pretend from Cinderella. I played Dandini in Cinderella in1988 so I knew the song well. Hell, I enjoyed watching the actors bring that to life for me once more.

Caroline Smart, an acting friend since my University days was doing the announcing of the various awards. I was sitting with Judith in the front row. Caroline said something and all of a sudden the spotlight came to rest …..on yours truly! Judith pushed me to my feet and Peter, Caroline’s husband came and escorted this totally shell shocked child onto stage. Caroline said something to me and pointed out at the audience. Shading my eyes from the lights I looked out and the entire audience was giving me a standing ovation. Caroline gave me this bit of paper to read while she read out to the audience:

                                                                                                                   Judges Award


Every single person in the entertainment industry in South Africa must be aware of Gaynor Young’s horrific fall of 18 metres down an unguarded lift shaft during a production of “Camelot” at the State Theatre when she had taken over as understudy at short notice.

This was 15 years ago. Doctors said that she would never walk or talk again but her innate strength and faith – considerably assisted by her incredibly supportive family – proved those doctors wrong.

Not only is she walking and talking but she has returned to the stage – not once, but twice – with her own shows My Plunge to Fame and Gaynor Rising.

For any performer, live theatre provides a major battle with nerves. Also, as one legendary theatre director once remarked in response to a question from an actor regarding his motivation: “Remember your lines and don’t fall over the furniture.”

Now imagine this kind of pressure when you are profoundly deaf, your memory is not always reliable, you no longer have the same control over your limbs as you used to…and your speech has been affected.
This award is presented to Gaynor – not so much for her extrodinary and virtually miraculous victory over her severe injuries – but for her determination not to allow physical challenges to get in her way, to continue  doing what she knows she does best – act – and for her sheer passion for theatre…..Gaynor Young!


Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather! I was totally GOBSMACKED! I was presented with my award and then Caroline motioned me over to the microphone to say a few words. Which I believe I did. I have no memory of what I said up there but once more I got a tremendous applause. As I was being escorted back to my seat I suddenly stopped and returned to the microphone. “Ladies and Gentlemen, you are seeing me tonight move totally appallingly. I don’t normally move like this. It is only because I am aware that you chaps are all watching me that I am moving in such a dire way. You watch…..upstairs in the bar, a glass of wine in my hand, I will barely have a limp!”

There was much laughter at this.


Later, chatting to people in the bar, I felt as if I were queen for the night! I was thrilled because Fiona Ramsay is down in Durban directing Nunsense so she was there that evening. She made me laugh. Apparently at the moment she is going out with a tiger trainer. She kept on correcting me throughout the evening: “No, not a lion tamer, Gaynor, a tiger trainer.”