BWW Blogs: Reactions to the 50th Anniversary Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards Nominations
With the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards set to take place next Sunday, 15 March, this is sure to be a big week for South African directors, playwrights, actors and designers. Facebook and Twitter accounts have been busy with collegial congratulations between nominees, each of whom carries the hope of taking home a cash prize of R15 000 and a silver medallion. The Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards also celebrates its own milestone this year: 50 years of recognising excellence in the theatre. Last year, my thoughts on the nominations for 2014's ceremony ended up being one of the most read articles of the year on BroadwayWorld South Africa, so it seemed logical to continue the tradition this year. As in that first column, my comments do not always reflect who I think should or will win - although, naturally, there are times when they do.
So let's take a look at the nominees in the various categories for this year.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEAD ACTOR IN A PLAY: Albert Pretorius for PLAYLAND as Gideon le Roux; Chris van Niekerk for 2092: GOD VAN KLANK as Hernon Freytag; Jamie Bartlett for DEATH OF A COLONIALIST as Harold Smith; Khayalethu Anthony for THE CHAMPION as Thulani; Matthew Marsh for A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT as Eugéne de Kock.
The category of Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Play pits some strong performances against each other at the Fleur du Caps this year, two of which stand head and shoulders above the rest: Albert Pretorius's Gideon le Roux in PLAYLAND and Matthew Marsh's Eugéne de Kock in A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT. Albert Pretorius recently won a kykNET Fiësta as Best Actor for his work in DIE SEEMEEU and PLAYLAND, recognition that has been a long time coming. Pretorius has been delivering consistently excellent work on South African stages in productions as diverse as ...MISKIEN (which returned to the Baxter for a fifth birthday season last year) and THE THREE LITTLE PIGS. Marsh was phenomenal in his turn as one of South Africa's most notorious personalities, imbuing the characters with a terrifying composure. (Last year, one of the nominations was shared between the ensemble cast of THE THREE LITTLE PIGS; I'd have liked to see the four-man company of SILENT VOICE similarly recognised in this category for their compelling work in one of the most important productions to play Cape Town's stages last year.)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEAD ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Emily Child for THE PERVERT LAURA as Laura; Janna Ramos-Violante for CONSTELLATIONS as Marianne; Mikkie-Dene le Roux for GROUNDED as The Pilot; Noma Dumezweni for A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT as Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela; Sandra Prinsloo for OSCAR AND THE PINK LADY as various characters.
When A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT premiered very early last year, it set a standard by which every other play that would be staged in 2014 could be measured. Noma Dumezweni delivered a subtle and layered performance in that play. The other nominated performances in this category are all from the second half of the year, indicating perhaps how long it was until a performance of comparable quality appeared on stages in and around the Mother City. Of those four, two actresses might split the vote: Emily Child and Sandra Prinsloo. Child was magnificent in THE PERVERT LAURA, delivering the kind of mind-blowing performance she delivered in DECADENCE. Prinsloo was heart-breaking in OSCAR AND THE PINK LADY, which she also performed in Afrikaans, and also has a nomination in another category for that production. Assuming that Prinsloo will pick up the award for Best Performance in a Revue, Cabaret or One-person Show for her multiple roles in OSCAR AND THE PINK LADY, this award should go to Child for THE PERVERT LAURA.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY: Guy de Lancey for THE PERVERT LAURA as Father; Mbulelo Grootboom for PLAYLAND as Marthinus Zoeloe; Phillip Tipo Tindisa for FISHERS OF HOPE (Taweret) as John; Richard September for RONDOMSKRIK as various characters; Tobie Cronjé for VETTIE VETTIE as Henry.
This category features an old favourite with South African performers, a controversial theatre maker and performer who went head-to-head with Artscape about their Shakespeare productions at Maynardville, a couple of reliable actors delivering good work at various points in their careers and a newcomer whose performance created the kind of buzz that often results in nominations and awards. In this case, that buzz is a reliable reflection of the standard of work of which Richard September is capable. It should be his night.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Buhle Ngaba for MISSING as Ayanda; Jennifer Steyn for THE TRAGEDY OF KING RICHARD III as Queen Elizabeth; Kate Liquorish for THE TRAGEDY OF KING RICHARD III as Lady Anne, 2nd Citizen and the Cardinal; Kensiwe Tshabalala for VANYA & SONIA & MASHA & SPIKE as Cassandra; Lee-Ann van Rooi for RONDOMSKRIK as various characters.
This year, the supporting actress category is one where all things appear equal to me. I don't think there is a standout performance in this group, which includes some of South Africa's top actresses. I think the award might go to Lee-Ann van Rooi for RONDOMSKRIK, but this is one where just about anybody could take home the prize.
BEST PERFORMANCE IN A REVUE, CABARET OR ONE-PERSON SHOW: Godfrey Johnson for VASLAV as Vaslav Nijinsky; Khayalethu Anthony for THE CHAMPION as Thulani; Lizz Meiring for CHEAPER THAN ROSES as Betty Fourie; Mikki-Dene le Roux for GROUNDED as The Pilot; Sandra Prinsloo for OSCAR AND THE PINK LADY as various characters.
The five performances in this category were all critically acclaimed and - with the productions differing widely in genre, style and intent - things might come down to personal preferences in the way the pendulum swings. As indicated earlier in this column, I think this Fleur du Cap should go to Sandra Prinsloo for her work in OSCAR AND THE PINK LADY. Perhaps that speaks to my personal preferences, but Prinsloo's performance in this piece is still seared in my mind and heart. Prinsloo is a South African legend, and justifiably so.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MUSICAL OR MUSIC THEATRE SHOW: Daniel Richards for FERGUS OF GALLOWAY as Fergus; Godfrey Johnson for VASLAV as Vaslav Nijinsky; James Borthwick for THE SOUND OF MUSIC as Max Detweiler; Jonathan Roxmouth for CALL ME LEE as Liberace; Sne Dladla for FERGUS OF GALLOWAY as various characters.
2014 was something of a famine for musical theatre lovers in the Western Cape, and the reduction of acting categories from four to two for this genre reflects that. The race for this award is between Daniel Richards and Sne Dladla, who ordinarily might have won Best Performance by a Lead Actor and Best Performance by a Supporting Actor respectively in any other season. Both were excellent in what was a completely refreshing piece of musical theatre from Alexander McCall Smith and Tom Cunningham.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL OR MUSIC THEATRE SHOW: Bethany Dickson for THE SOUND OF MUSIC as Maria Rainer; Carmen Pretorius for THE SOUND OF MUSIC as Liesl von Trapp; Janelle Visagie for THE SOUND OF MUSIC as Mother Abbess; Lucy Tops for BAR NONE as Betty; Taryn Sudding for THE SOUND OF MUSIC as Baroness Schreuder.
With a similar mix of leading and supporting players competing for the same role, there can be no doubt that Bethany Dickson will take home the Fleur du Cap for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical this year. Dickson lost out on the Supporting Actress award last year for her work in SUNSET BOULEVARD and this was a performance that would stand alongside the best in any musical theatre season, with Dickson holding together this Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein classic in no uncertain terms.
AWARD FOR MOST PROMISING STUDENT: David Viviers (UCT); Dylan Owen (UCT); Nathan Lynn (UCT); Sive Gubangxa (UCT); Skye Russell (UCT).
This past season was one during which I managed to see a great deal of student theatre. David Viviers, who has also been working professionally with Wynne Bredenkamp on her production of SALT, could easily take home the award in this category, but so could Nathan Lynn - who was an entertaining underdog in THE OPEN COUPLE - or Sive Gubangxa, who scored a hat trick of memorable performances in CURL UP AND DYE, LION ON THE PATH and UHM.
BEST DIRECTOR: Alan Swerdlow for CONSTELLATIONS; Jaco Bouwer for BALBESIT; Lara Foot for FISHERS OF HOPE (TAWERET); Marí Borstlap for 2092: GOD VAN KLANK; Tara Notcutt for ...MISKIEN.
Sentiment would have me choose Tara Notcutt as the winner of the Best Director Fleur du Cap. ...MISKIEN is the kind of production that stays with you forever and Notcutt's work in helming the piece was beautifully orchestrated. Still there's a good chance that Jaco Bouwer could win for his captaining of the rugby team that was deconstructed in Saartjie Botha's BALBESIT. Marí Borstlap might prove to be a dark horse in this category for her work in 2092: GOD VAN KLANK. I also think that Geoffrey Hyland's chilling staging of Howard Barker's SLOWLY could sit comfortably alongside these nominees; it's something of a pity that piece of work hasn't garnered more recognition across the board this year.
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN: Benever (Bennie) Arendse for FISHERS OF HOPE (TAWERET); Daniel Galloway for A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT (Original design: Tim Mitchell); Guy de Lancey and Luke Ellenbogen for THE PERVERT LAURA; Paule Constable for WAR HORSE; Wolf Britz for BALBESIT.
Last year, Denis Hutchinson was snubbed in this category, missing out on a nomination for his work on SUNSET BOULEVARD. This year, the shut-out in this category is Wilhelm Disbergen, whose work on SILENT VOICE was innovative and thrilling. Of the nominees recognised here, two lighting design plots stood out for me: those for A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT and THE PERVERT LAURA. Daniel Galloway's work on the former was key to establishing the shifting rhythms negotiated in the play, while the simultaneously washed out and saturated quality that Guy de Lancey and Luke Ellenbogen contrived for the latter contributed to the dizzying emotional spiral negotiated in Louis Viljoen's writing.
BEST SET DESIGN: Albert Maritz for PLAYLAND; Marí Borstlap for 2092: GOD VAN KLANK; Patrick Curtis for FISHERS OF HOPE (TAWERET); Robert Jones for THE SOUND OF MUSIC; Saul Radomsky for THE SHADOW OF THE HUMMINGBIRD.
Two designs in this category really spoke to me: Patrick Curtis's set for FISHERS OF HOPE (TAWERET) and Saul Radomsky's set for THE SHADOW OF THE HUMMINGBIRD. Both were designed for plays that were perhaps not successfully realised in every aspect of production and both were brilliant designs that elevated the pieces beyond whatever hurdles they may have faced. Ultimately, I think THE SHADOW OF THE HUMMINGBIRD pips FISHERS OF HOPE (TAWERET) at the post - but there's always the chance that Albert Maritz or Marí Borstlap might be the big winner on the night. Robert Jones's set for THE SOUND OF MUSIC did what it needed to do, but like the production itself, was a by-the-numbers look at the material.
There's a clear winner in this category for me. Leigh Bishop's work on SLOWLY was simply light years ahead, both in concept and execution, of any of the other costume design plots of this past year. Her deconstructed princess costumes, with their beautiful and endless and restrictive layers, were an artistic triumph.
BEST SOUND DESIGN, ORIGINAL MUSIC COMPOSITION OR ORIGINAL SCORE: Braam du Toit for BALBESIT - Original Score; Godfrey Johnson for VASLAV - Original Music; Marí Borstlap for 2092: GOD VAN KLANK - Soundscape, Soundtrack; Motshepe Pusho Kwagane for SILENT VOICE - Percussionist (live); Nceba Gongxeka for FISHERS OF HOPE (TAWERET) - Musician (live).
The Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards loves live musicians and soundscapes. That's great. But there's a snub in this category, the original score created for FERGUS OF GALLOWAY by Alexander McCall Smith and Tom Cunningham, which was performed live mostly by brilliant guitarist Jonathan Tait, although the guitar was passed around from actor to actor in the fantastic finale of the piece. This category is always a problematic one for me; I think it is impossible to compare the disciplines of sound design and various types of composition as if they are one and the same.
BEST PUPPETRY DESIGN: Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones for WAR HORSE - Puppet design, fabrication and direction; Alida van Deventer for THE SNOW GOOSE - Puppet props; Jenine Collocott for THE SNOW GOOSE - Masks and puppet props
WAR HORSE. The level of artistry achieved in that design made the puppetry and mask work in the rather disappointing adaptation of THE SNOW GOOSE seem completely perfunctory. Bravo, Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones: it was great to see your work on our own shores at last.
BEST NEW SOUTH AFRICAN SCRIPT: 2092: GOD VAN KLANK by Wilken Calitz; A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT by Nicholas Wright; DEATH OF A COLONIALIST by Greg Latter; THE KINGMAKERS by Louis Viljoen; THE PERVERT LAURA by Louis Viljoen.
I think it's likely that the prize in this category will go to South Africa's most audacious and unapologetic contemporary playwright, Louis Viljoen. Hopefully, he'll win for the deeply provocative and beautifully crafted THE PERVERT LAURA - for me, THE KINGMAKERS was a great character study that needed another act to unpack everything it had to say. The other strong contender here is A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT, a perfectly pitched piece of theatre; if anything stands between Nicholas Wright and that prize, it's the fact that he works out of the United Kingdom and seems to be recognised as a British playwright, despite having been born and raised here.
ROSALIE VAN DER GUCHT PRIZE FOR NEW DIRECTORS: Khayalethu Mofu for THE CHAMPION; Koleka Putuma for UHM; Louis Viljoen for THE KINGMAKERS and THE PERVERT LAURA; Marí Borstlap for 2092: GOD VAN KLANK; Thando Doni for PASSAGE.
Double nominations are difficult to negotiate. When a film is nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Picture as well as Best Animated Feature or Best Foreign Film, how can it not win in its own category when none of the other nominees have picked up recognition in what is perceived to be the more prestigious category? Only one of these nominees pops up in the Best Director category, so - following that logic - Marí Borstlap should have this one in the bag. If she doesn't win, then surely the winner should have nabbed her spot in the Best Director category? A conundrum. Then there's Louis Viljoen's nomination for his work on two plays. What if one piece was better directed than the other? Can a judge's admiration for one be cancelled out by his or her disdain of the other? That might stand between Louis Viljoen and this prize it may be that. Another conundrum. I suppose we'll have to wait and see what happens when the awards are presented next weekend.
And that's it for this year, folks - barring the awards for Innovation In Theatre and Lifetime Achievement, which will only be announced on the night. This year's special ceremony with be directed by Christopher Weare, himself the winner of a Lifetime Achievement award at the Fleur du Caps.
What do you think about the Fleur du Cap nominees? Head on to the comment box below or interact with the Fleur du Cap Awards on Twitter and Facebook. Tickets to the Fleur du Cap Awards, which take place at the Artscape Opera House this year, cost R200 per person, including canapés and Fleur du Cap wines, are available through Computicket.