The Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards have celebrated the best of Cape theatre while South Africans have sipped Fleur du Cap wines. SEBASTIAN BARTLETT gets to know both sides.
“Art and theatre have the power to transform communities and society at large.”
Just a few minutes into our conversation, Melanie Burke’s passion for the arts in general, and theatre in particular, is palpable. As chairperson of the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards judging panel, she oversees the voting for what have grown into the most prestigious theatre accolades in the country.
The Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards have celebrated the leading lights of the theatre industry since 1965. Each year the judging panel of critics, journalists and educators reviews nearly 100 productions staged at more than 20 venues in and around Cape Town. A thorough process of nominations, shortlisting and voting by the judges – with all votes independently audited – determines the winners each year. A glittering awards ceremony is then held in March to celebrate the industry’s leading lights.
“For us it’s fantastic that Fleur du Cap recognises that, as a brand, it has a role to play in the wider structure of society,” says Melanie, adding that a Fleur du Cap is “the most coveted award in South African theatre, comparable to the Tony Awards in America and the Olivier Awards in the United Kingdom”.
Certainly, the list of previous Fleur du Cap Award winners is a roll-call for the who’s who of the theatre industry: Sandra Prinsloo, Aubrey Poo, Andrew Buckland, Mbongeni Mtshali, Jonathan Roxmouth, Lara Foot, David Kramer, Shaleen Surtie-Richards and many more have claimed a share of the limelight.
While winning a Fleur du Cap is an affirmation of one’s work and talent, for up-and-coming actors and directors it can also serve as a springboard into the industry. Each year the Most Promising Student Award recognises a future star and immediately opens doors into professional theatre. An excellent example is Matthew Wild. The recipient of this accolade in 2000, he has gone on to win numerous Fleur du Cap Awards over the years, and was the director of the awards ceremony in 2017.
Even the ceremony itself is a coveted opportunity for budding theatre professionals to gain industry experience, enabling students from the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, Varsity College and the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography to work alongside seasoned directors, performers and technicians to stage what has become the highlight of the local theatrical calendar.
While the various Fleur du Cap Awards categories recognise most key elements of the theatre industry, 2017 saw a new addition to the roster with the introduction of the Encore Award. Inspired by the need to recognise theatre works that fall outside the main categories but are nonetheless remarkable and worth returning for, the inaugural award went to the cast behind The Fall, a groundbreaking work that catalogued the experiences of students during the Fees Must Fall protests that rocked university campuses nationwide.
New award categories introduced in 2018 include Best Theatre Production for Children and Young People, Best Performance in Opera – Male, Best Performance in Opera – Female and Best Performance by an Ensemble.
“The category I get most excited about, though, is the Best New South African Script because people are now starting to write our stories for theatre,” says Melanie. She is passionate about the power of the Fleur du Cap Awards to transform the South African theatre space by inspiring and recognising actors, directors and theatre professionals.
“That transformation is bringing more people to come and watch theatre, because the stories have this great resonance about events that are of our time,” she tells me. “The whole energy in theatre is changing.”
At Fleur du Cap, too, there are exciting changes afoot. The launch of a striking new label design for the revamped Bergkelder Selection, now known as ‘Essence du Cap’, celebrated just one of these. “The new look has been a long-term project for Fleur du Cap and we’re extremely happy with the way it has been rolled out,” says winemaker Pieter Badenhorst. “It was time for a fresh look, and our new slogan, ‘Alive With Flair’, fits precisely with the direction we want to move in.”
Essence du Cap encapsulates the winery’s dedication to showcasing the Cape’s diversity of vineyards, with the fresh new design and modern aesthetic a perfect foil for the culture of creativity and freedom that defines the Fleur du Cap brand.
“We’re very fortunate in that we have the freedom to choose the vineyards we use to make Fleur du Cap wines. We’re not bound by one vineyard, one farm or one area in South Africa,” adds Pieter. As a winemaker, he takes full advantage of that freedom in crafting the award-winning wines of the Fleur du Cap range, sourcing grapes from Lutzville to Paarl and to the windy shores of Walker Bay.
“But we’re very proud of our home at Die Bergkelder, and we source grapes from across the Stellenbosch ward. We buy in fruit from the Bottelary Hills and the Helderberg to Devon Valley and Jonkershoek. I’m in every single valley and on every slope around Stellenbosch!” he jokes.
Expressing those unique vineyards in the bottle is the inspiration behind the Essence du Cap range, which showcases the diversity of the Cape Winelands in the different wines made for everyday enjoyment, all of them accessible.
Also enjoying a facelift is the Series Privée collection, previously known as the Unfiltered range. “These are food wines, wines for a special occasion,” explains Pieter, who says that Series Privée is “always a selection of the best: the best barrels, the best tanks”.
Celebrating the very best of the year: it’s a thread that runs through both the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards and the cellar where these memorable wines are made. Whether it’s separating out the finest grapes from a long, hot harvest or shining a light on the myriad talents energising South Africa’s vibrant theatre scene, Fleur du Cap is a part of the journey. From pouring a glass to applauding the stars returning for an encore, this summer will see the stages of Cape Town and Stellenbosch come alive with flair.
- The 53rd annual Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards take place at Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre on 18 March 2018.
Sip summer at Oude Libertas.
Make the most of late-summer evenings by enjoying culture and a glass of fine wine at the acclaimed Oude Libertas Theatre on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. Fleur du Cap is proud to be sponsoring the summer season at this captivating performance venue.
The past months have seen everyone from Rocco de Villiers to the Radio Kalahari Orkes take the stage, but there’s no slowing down as the season draws to a close. Its final weeks are packed with wonderful live entertainment.
Enjoy an operatic journey through the works of Mozart with Mozart: Magic, Marriage, Madness on 2 March, or settle in to be dazzled by the fleet-footed ballerinas of Cape Town City Ballet as they present an all-new interpretation of the classic Romeo and Juliet from 7 to 10 March, while Ike Moriz returns from a sold-out tour of Germany to close the season with a selection of swing band hits on 11 March.
For more information go to http://oudelibertas.co.za or phone 021 809 7473