BWW Special Feature: Countdown to the 52nd Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards Sees Nominees and Theatre Politics Take a Bow
The 52nd Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards will be presented tonight at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town. With the local theatre industry counting down to the ceremony, BroadwayWorld presents a special feature that highlights the nominees and some of the discourse that has transpired since the nominations were released last month.
Themed "Alive with Flair", this year's Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards has already attracted controversy, with many performers, designers and theatre-makers taking to social media platforms to voice their concerns and objections following the announcement of this year's nominees a month ago.
There have been allegations, communicated particularly via artist's Facebook pages, that the rules are unclear and that the placement of nominees appears haphazard at best. Others have commented that it is difficult to get members of the judging panel to performances and that the system is biased towards productions that have access to funding and theatres for a sustained period. This last factor is intrinsically linked to socio-political and economic systems that continue to oppress people of colour in this country, and regular attendees may recall Lara Foot speaking out about this latter issue at one recent edition of the annual awards programme.
With both ideological and practical matters such as these constantly resurfacing, it is perhaps time that the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards puts itself through a process of self-appraisal from the ground up, proposes a plan for strategic development and applies the proposals that arise from this appraisal consistently.
Indeed, communicating and consistently applying its rules is a mandate with which the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards seems to struggle. An obvious example of this seen in the recent shift in the application of the age-old rule that productions must run for a minimum of eight performances over a period of three weeks at the same venue to be eligible for an award. This rule was stated clearly in the press materials sent out to promote tomorrow night's ceremony, but a later release, in which judging panel member Tracey Saunders interviewed her chair, Melanie Burke, stated:
After consideration of feedback from the industry the criteria have been amended in the last few years. The requisite length of the run was considerably longer but it was agreed that if the 8 performances happen in a shorter period, that the production still qualifies.
The Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards have never formally announced this amendment to the criteria and press materials have always quoted the previous guidelines up until that point. Such a sudden shift is bound to fracture even further the good faith that needs to exist between the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards and the theatre industry in Cape Town and its surrounds.
A practical solution might be for productions to submit a web-based form that states the criteria clearly, with space for the production company to show how it fulfils those criteria. It may also be useful for the producer to have the scope to indicate which cast members belong in which categories, as well as an opportunity to confirm the production credits. A written confirmation of the production's eligibility, with information about which panel members will attend the production at which point in the run, might follow.
All problems aside - although there are murmurs on Facebook of a protest group forming at the Artscape tonight -this year's awards are upon us, and it is time for BroadwayWorld's annual breakdown of the nominees, the potential winners and the egregiously overlooked productions and players.
The category of Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Play features five strong performances by five top actors: Andrew Buckland (for THE INCONVENIENCE OF WINGS), Desmond Dube (for I SEE YOU), Ralph Lawson (A VOICE I CANNOT SILENCE), Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi (for CATTLE DRIVE) and Marius Weyers (for THE FATHER). Buckland, for instance, delivered an intensely vulnerable turn as the husband of a woman with bipolar disorder, while Lawson completely disappeared into the role of a real-life figure, Alan Paton. Nonetheless, this award should be presented to Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, whose searing performance in CATTLE DRIVE was electric. Were he to lose in this category, it would be the kind of loss that makes one question the presence of any form of justice in our world.
The nominees for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Play include Susan Danford (CLYBOURNE PARK), Ilse Klink (KRISTALVLAKTE), Jennifer Steyn (with two nominations, for THE INCONVENIENCE OF WINGS and A DOLL'S HOUSE and Anna-Mart van der Merwe (for THE PAINTED ROCKS AT REVOLVER CREEK).
The inclusion of Danford in this category is somewhat perplexing, with CLYBOURNE PARK being one of those plays that is a genuine ensemble piece. It follows, then, that all of the roles in CLYBOURNE PARK are featured roles rather than lead roles, but of course the problematic "lead" vs. "supporting" convention that the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards follows makes it difficult to place performances in roles like these. Personally, I think that Danford and her co-stars - some of whom are all too conspicuously absent from this set of nominations - should have all been considered in the supporting categories. Either way, the fifth spot in this category should have been awarded to Emily Child for her surprising and deeply moving performance in CONTRACTIONS. Child's absence here is one of the big snubs of the season.
Who should win? Steyn's transformation of Nora, a character created more than 130 years ago, into a vital woman of our times in A DOLL'S HOUSE might just edge out Klink in the end. On the other hand, Klink already won the kykNET Fiësta for her performance in KRISTALVLAKTE and people who are nominated against themselves tend to end up with split votes - so who know which way things will go on the night?
The award for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Play will likely go to Dean John Smith for his performance in KRISTALVLAKTE. Smith already has a track record at the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards, having cracked the nod as the most promising student in 2014. But Motheo Madisa (CATTLE DRIVE) might give him a run for his money, and I hope he does - despite the fact that Madisa's role of Enoch was a lead role and that is not the category in which he should have been nominated. Alas, there is little internal logic followed in the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards about what constitutes a "lead" or "supporting" role. It follows that if Yitzhak in HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH is considered a lead role at these awards, despite being most other awards programmes worldwide nominating the actresses in that role as featured rather than leading performers, then so should Enoch. The other nominees in this category include Lunga Radebe (I SEE YOU), Rob van Vuuren (A DOLL'S HOUSE) and David Viviers (THE FINKELSTEINS ARE COMING TO DINNER).
Anthea Thompson is the clear front-runner for Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Play; her Mrs Linde in A DOLL'S HOUSE was sublime. The category is filled out by Bianca Flanders (KRISTALVLAKTE), Megan Furniss for (THE FINKELSTEINS ARE COMING TO DINNER), Amy-Louise Wilson (THE FATHER) and Babalwa Zimbini (ITYALA LAMAWELE). The absence of a nomination for Lesoko Seabe's performance in CLYBOURNE PARK is something of a snub; the quality of her work was equal to that of her nominated co-star.
When it comes to the nominees in the musical theatre categories, there are two easy picks and two difficult ones. In the Lead and Supporting Actor categories respectively, the awards should go to Paul du Toit (for HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH) and Jonathan Roxmouth (for JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT).
Roxmouth is also nominated twice alongside Du Toit (for I'M PLAYING YOUR SONG: THE MARVIN HAMLISCH STORY and SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET), as is Earl Gregory (for JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT) and, most controversially, Anton Luitingh (for ANNIE). Luitingh's nomination for ANNIE has seen some significant criticism of the awards by the musical theatre community on social media, for it was Neels Clasen who originated the role and played it for the majority of the touring production's two-city season before an injury towards the end of the Cape Town run. It breaks with convention to nominate an understudy or alternate, and while the responsibility for that break lies squarely with the judging panel, I must admit I have been holding out, almost to the last minute, the hope that Luitingh would decline his nomination. If Julie Andrews could do it - losing probably her last chance to win a competitive EGOT in the process - when she felt the Tony Awards committee overlooked her cast mates in VICTOR/VICTORIA, it would have been an appropriate choice here. Artists should not forget either their agency or their responsibility when a reaction is required to in a situation such as this, where something is clearly not right.
Roxmouth's fellow nominees in the supporting category include Germandt Geldenhuys and Michael Richard (both for SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET), Dean Roberts (for JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT) and Richard Vorster (for ANNIE). Frankly, the last two nominations also sit rather uncomfortably, as both roles are parts of a larger ensemble track. So are, arguably, were the roles played by Loukmaan Adams and Sne Dladla in DISTRICT SIX - KANALA; the difference is that both actors of these actors had more than one featured number in the show and both had a far greater impact in their ensemble than Roberts or Vorster. Indeed, the complete shutout of acting nominations for the cast of DISTRICT SIX - KANALA is an enigma. And were one to scan the musicals of the past season for other featured roles that deserved a nod, one would need to look no further than Adam Pelkowitz's performance as the Beadle in SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET.
The Lead and Supporting Actress awards are an even muddier affair, with the conundrum of Yitzhak in HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH complicating things in the leading category. That said, Genna Galloway's performance in that role was award-worthy, and I would like to see her win. The other nominees in the category include Lilla Fleischmann (for ANNIE), Bianca le Grange (for JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT) and Charon Williams-Ros (with separate nominations for SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET and ANNIE).
What happens in the supporting category is anyone's guess. The nominees include Delray Halgryn (ANNIE), Sanli Jooste (SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET), Taryn Sudding (ANNIE), Zoleka Mpotsha (A MAN OF GOOD HOPE) and Candice van Litsenborgh (SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET). Van Litsenborgh was most excellent in her ensemble track and she is the strongest actress in this category, but - as with the actors - it is an ensemble track. With three such nominations this year, is another gap in the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards being identified? It is sad, too, to see Anne-Marie Clulow snubbed for her work in SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET.
The final performance award, for Best Performance in a Revue, Cabaret Or One-Person Show, sees legends like Antoinette Kellerman (for AS DIE BROEK PAS) and Pieter-Dirk Uys (for THE ECHO OF A NOISE) go up against Marlo Minnaar (for SANTA GAMKA), Wessel Pretorius (for DIE ONTELBARE 48) and Daniel Richards (for PAY BACK THE CURRY). I would like to see the prize go to Uys, whose THE ECHO OF A NOISE is a perfect show for an artist of his calibre at this time in his career.
It must be mentioned, however, that another irregularity appears in this category, with Kellerman having already won this award for this role in this show at the 46th Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards. Indeed, her win was one that featured heavily in the press that year when it was discovered that the award had been presented in error to James Cairns for DIRT. A similar case, although without the scandalous history, is to be seen in Lara Foot's Best Director nomination for KAROO MOOSE; she was presented with that award for the original production in 2007.
Thus, it is likely that we will see Foot, if she takes the award, win for THE INCONVENIENCE OF WINGS, although I would love to see Christiaan Olwagen take home the prize for his revelatory production of A DOLL'S HOUSE. Their fellow nominees in this category are Noma Dumezweni for I SEE YOU and Jaco Bouwer for SANTA GAMKA. With three highly acclaimed productions on the boards this year, a clear snub in this category is Greg Karvelllas. It would have been gratifying to see him in the fifth spot that is taken up by Foot's repeat nomination.
Only three nominees populate the Best New Director award: Quanita Adams, Mbongeni Mtshali and Wessel Pretorius. Both Adams and Pretorius are unstoppable forces in the theatre, but Mtshali might just pip them to the post here, his multi-modal work in IN(S)KIN having made an impact as a part of Artscape's New Voices programme last year.
In the design categories, I would hope to see Wolf Britz win the lighting design award for A DOLL'S HOUSE, Saul Radomsky the set design award for CLYBOURNE PARKand Birrie le Roux the costume design award for either of her nominations (DISTRICT SIX - KANALA and CLYBOURNE PARK). Their nominated colleagues include lighting designers Faheem Bardien (for ITYALA LAMAWELE), Jaco Bouwer (SANTA GAMKA), Ben Cracknell (ANNIE) and Tina le Roux (SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET); set designers Greg King (SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET), Colin Richmond (ANNIE) and Rocco Pool (THE FATHER and A DOLL'S HOUSE) and costume designers Neil Stuart Harris (SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET), Niall Griffin for JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT and Colin Richmond (ANNIE).
The penultimate category is for Best Soundscape, Original Music Composition or Original Score. With three nominations for soundscapes - Charl-Johan Lingenfelder (for THE PAINTED ROCKS AT REVOLVER CREEK), Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi and Motheo Madisa (for CATTLE DRIVE) and Ulric Namasun Roberts (for SANTA GAMKA) - and two for original scores - Wilken Calitz (for KRISTALVLAKTE, complementing his soundscape) and David Kramer (for DISTRICT SIX - KANALA), I would expect Calitz to take home the award for the much-praised Suidoosterfees production.
KRISTALKVALKTE might also win Amy Jephta the award for Best New South African Script, although the competition from Lara Foot's THE INCONVENIENCE OF WINGS and Penelope Youngleson's SILLAGE is stiff. What a phenomenal year for women writers! The competition from their male counterparts, Mongiwekhaya (for I SEE YOU) and Ralph Lawson and Greg Homann (A VOICE I CANNOT SILENCE) is simply not quite as convincing.
If there is one production that is conspicuously missing from every category, it must be THE FALL, which took the Baxter Theatre by storm late last year. Hopefully, the team that created this timely production about the #RhodesMustFall and subsequent student movements will be presented with the award for Innovation in Theatre. The team consisting of facilitator Clare Stopford, actor-directors Ameera Conrad and Thando Mangcu and cast members Oarabile Ditsele, Tankiso Mamabolo, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Sihle Mnqwazana and Cleo Raatus deserve to be recognised at this level.
As previously announced, two awards will not be presented tonight, namely those for Most Promising Student and Best Puppetry Design, but the Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented as usual during the proceedings, which are bound to crackle with tension and hopefully shape what form the awards take in the years to follow.
The 52nd Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards kicks off at Artscape Theatre Center at 18:00 this evening. The ceremony will be directed by Matthew Wild, with assistance from Jason Jacobs. Well-known musical director Janine Neethling will co-ordinate the onstage entertainment, which includes Zoe Modiga, African Angels, the Rudi Smit dancers and performances by various local artists. Africa Melane will co-host the evening with the always glamorous Cathy Specific. Be sure to check back tomorrow for a complete list of the winners.