A new star settled down in town

Nicole Fortuin begins her run as Carol in Oleanna at The Fugard Theatre tonight.

Four months ago, Nicole Fortuin, famed for her television work in Generations: The Legacy and SABC3’s Roer Jou Voete, moved to Hout Bay and has fallen in love with the village’s nature and “quietness”.

“Even though there are things happening in Hout Bay, it always feels calm. I also love that the people are not pretentious.”

Hout Bay’s serenity may be just the thing for the charming 26-year-old. With a work ethic that would rival the most seasoned performer, she has little down time, although that is exactly how she wants it.

From tonight, Friday September 14, Nicole stars in a limited run of Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet’s powerful and searingly topical play, Oleanna, opposite celebrated actor and comedian Alan Committie.

Nicole plays Carol, a female college student who engages with her male professor John in a heated discussion about his lesson content and teaching style. The relationship of a somewhat pedantic teacher and his student quickly turns into a fiendishly acute X-ray of the mechanisms of status, censorship, abuse and a charge of sexual harassment.

Oleanna also examines the explosive and relevant contemporary issues of the assumption of power, intellectual freedom and sexual politics against the background of academic, institutional and structural inequality.

That the play is being staged at The Fugard Theatre, where she worked as an usher in her final year at UCT’s drama school, is not lost on her. The cyclical nature of an actress’s life is something she pays special attention to and relishes.

Nicole’s rise as a performer can be traced to her roots as a dancer. While a pupil at The Settlers High School, she joined a hip hop dance crew, Fuerza, which went on to win the hip hop world championships in Serbia and allowed her to travel the world at a tender age.

It was only when she was in matric that she settled on drama, believing that it was the only medium that would allow her to act, dance and focus on art simultaneously. During her second year at UCT, she played the lead in Eurydice, a play by Sarah Ruhl which retells the myth of Orpheus from the perspective of Eurydice, his wife.

“This is what sparked my passion for drama. As students, we weren’t allowed to do outside work, but I did extra work on films being shot in Cape Town anyway. I worked as an extra on The Giver and a few French films. I would recommend that any drama student does it, because it teaches you so much.”

Soon after completing her studies, Nicole auditioned for Roer My Voete and was shocked to be named in the lead role. “At the same time though, I knew where this was supposed to be. It felt natural to me. It’s really spiralled from there,” she said.

From vocal work in SAfm’s radio drama to starring in Janice Honeyman’s pantomime of Sleeping Beauty at the Joburg Theatre, Nicole moves between performance mediums and enjoys honing her craft.

In 2016 and 2017 Nicole landed lead roles in Warner Bro’s A Cinderella Story (alongside Sophia Carson and Jennifer Tilly), in National Geographic’s Origins: Journey of Mankind and in the critically acclaimed Swartwater. She can also be seen portraying supporting roles in Van De Merwe and Vaselintjie, two locally produced Afrikaans films released in 2017.

“As an actress, you need to know yourself. You have to be a firm believer in yourself, put your head down and work hard. There is a lot of sacrifice involved.”

She said while she realised she was fortunate to have so much work, the industry could be “tough” in respect of contractual obligations. “You can audition and get a part you really want, but you can’t always do it because of contractual problems.”

Nicole is aware that the content of Oleanna is controversial, but will be playing Carol in a manner that leaves it up to the audience to decide.

“With this play, you have to play what is written in the script. Normally, you would fight for your character, but with Carol I don’t want to defend the character. Not all women are Carol, and not all men are John. I think remembering that makes it a little bit easier.”

Having worked with foreign actors, Nicole is adamant that South African thespians as well as production crews are of an international standard. “I can’t wait for South African audiences become aware of this,” she said.

Nicole believes she has the ability not to become overawed by the acting luminaries, feeling this gave her a level head and focus for her craft. “You have to remind yourself that at the
end of the day, everyone is human.”

Having said that, she would love to have the opportunity to work with local theatre and screen giants like Jennifer Steyn, Christiaan Olwagen and Crystal Donna Roberts.

“They have such a grasp of storytelling and their mediums. Ultimately, I have a very clear timeline of what I want to do; I want to do English and Afrikaans, local and international. You have to define for yourself what you want to do.”