The Actress, the Stove & Fleur du Cap

Tuesday, 12 March, 2002
Melvyn Minnaar
The Distell Foundation hosts Fleur du Cap awards
Not necessarily what the bishop said, but the motivating praise from the MC to the dashing actress in her summery sexy red frock was widely applauded. Then she brought the house down. Her sensuous, stage voice pitched perfectly to engage the whole room, Claire Berlein announced that she would be buying … a stove.

She had just been honoured as Best Actress with a fancy plaque and a good cheque. Hence the stove on the shopping list.

The event was the annual lunch for the presentation of the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards - one of Cape Town’s most colourful and jolly cultural occasions. For the brand, one of the country’s most widely recognized (and pretty well known overseas), this event is an opportunity to honour the acting fraternity. For the stage crowd who gather in flamboyant droves for this yearly eat-and-drink-together, it is a rare, but unusual acknowledgement of their (some say fading) craft.

One can safely bet that actors and actresses, stage directors and designers and playwrights - proverbially known as somewhat scatty if not temperamental - would order no other wine when they can. Loyalty for Fleur du Cap is simply a matter of putting their money where its mouth is as far as this dramatic gang is concerned.

Which is what the Distell Foundation does. Every since the late 1960s, the Cape’s stage talent has been honoured by this company.

Sipping delightful Fleur du Cap Semillon and later a dash of Merlot, the troupers trooped out, one by glorious one, to be honoured. And then, towards the end, there is the moment when silence descended, tears flowed and they jumped to their feet to acclaim one of their kind for a Life Time Award.

Best Actress went to Claire Berlein for her portrayal of the daughter, Mag Folan, in The Beauty Queen of Leenane, while Paddy Canavan collected the Best Supporting Actress Award for this Irish play. Death of a Salesman, staged at the Baxter Theatre, collected three major awards. The Best Director's Award went to Bobby Heaney. Bill Flynn received the Best Actor's Award for his performance in the title role, while Langley Kirkwood picked up Best Supporting Actor for his role as Biff.

Mark Elderkin as named Most Promising Student and Janine Neethling won the prize for Best Contribution to a Musical or Revue. The Best Performance in a Musical or Revue went to Warren Kimmel. Keith Anderson received the award Best Technical Contribution to Theatre for Technical Management. Rajesh Gopie received the Best New Indigenous Script Award and the Rosalie van der Gucht Prize for Young Directors went to Brett Bailey.

As a grand finale (before the after-party starts!) there is nothing like those moments when the great of the stage are called up for public recognition for work of a lifetime. These Special Merit Awards are awarded for devotion and passion to the performing arts.

Diminutive Zoë Randall received the lifetime award in recognition of sixty years of dedication as actress and supporter of theatre and the profession. She turns 85 within days. Fiona Chisholm received her award for a long career as trend-setting theatre critic.

The call to Fleur du Cap is ‘Well done!’ and ‘Encore!’

By: Melvyn Minnaar