The winners of the 56th Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards have been announced and the organisers are upbeat and optimistic about the future of local theatre and its relevance in society. This despite the crippling impact of Covid-19, which brought local theatre to a virtual standstill.

Said chair of the judging panel Africa Melane: “Even though so many production runs were cancelled or curtailed in 2020 and 2021, the awards have perhaps assumed even greater significance than ever before. They are helping to keep hope alive, maintain momentum and continuity in the theatre space- as much for our wealth of theatrical talent as for our treasured audiences.

“Under these difficult circumstances, we have chosen to celebrate the mentorship, innovation and upcoming talent that underpin our industry, as well as the efforts made to support theatre people in need. We are thus honouring five recipients across four categories. These are for lifetime achievement, innovation in approach to theatre, support to the industry and for best student of the year.”

Veteran director, actress and writer, Janice Honeyman, a multiple Fleur du Cap Awards winner, has earned the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award for her extensive contribution to South African theatre. She works across a wide spectrum of genres from classical to popular theatre, pantomime, musicals, opera and operetta for adults and children.

Melane said: “Ever since the 1970s, she has used theatre to bring public attention to critical social issues. Over the decades she has continued to play an essential role in educational theatre, while also showcasing South African talent offshore, taking many of her productions abroad. She has also mentored and inspired many of the country’s top stage personalities.”

The panel awarded the Innovation in Theatre Award to the Royal Arts Town Amphitheatre in the Riebeek Valley.  This cultural hub, so vital to the towns of Riebeek West and Riebeek-Kasteel had been kept alive during lockdown by the region’s many creative figures.

Production closures, said Melane, had led to the development of imaginative new ideas and initiatives, with a strong accent on musical and fine arts events. “Tourism could be kept afloat when and wherever possible and funds were raised to support a range of social development projects.”

The Encore Award was won by the Theatre Benevolent Fund, established in 1964 to provide support and to maintain the dignity of showbiz professionals. He said the role of the fund, South Africa’s only arts and entertainment charitable fund, “has never been more crucial than over these past two years”.

The standard of student talent proved so high that for the first time in the history of the awards, the judges decided to award two Most Promising Students of the Year. Both 2020 graduates, they are Liné Koen of LAMTA (Luitingh Alexander Musical Theatre Academy) and Tebatso Denilson Molapo of the Centre for Theatre Dance and Performance Studies.

“They are highly gifted and exemplify the spirit, grit, verve and endurance of South Africa’s new generation of performing arts talent.”

Distell’s HR and Corporate Affairs director, André Opperman, congratulated all artists whom he said had worked tirelessly and in difficult circumstances to deliver outstanding performances. “From Janice Honeyman to Liné Koen and Tebatso Denilson Molapo, the recipients of this year’s awards forge a link between today and tomorrow, between the depth and wealth of existing excellence, experience and erudition and our future talent, potential and promise.

“We are proud to have been supporting the arts for close on six decades. We see our investment in the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards as an investment in South Africa’s future given the importance of theatre and art in general, in promoting social discourse, dialogue and social change.”

To view the 2021 awards announcement video, go to https://youtu.be/mAEE5YLqopw

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