Bidvest – Pro Systems

International conglomerate Bidvest’s Annual Chairman’s Awards gala dinner in Johannesburg is one of SA’s biggest and highest profile corporate events of the year.

The three night event features a specially created extravaganza stage show and accommodates 1,100 guests per session, including Bidvest’s top executives and managers who travel from all corners of the brand’s impressive global trading empire. 

Pressure on the production team led by artistic director Debbie Rakusin and co-producer David Bloch is intense, and the expectations always high to produce something innovative, unique and completely different to last year!

They come up with a series of initial concepts which are presented to Bidvest CEO Brian Joffe, and developed from there into a storyboard for the show. Joffe always has some ideas of his own explains Rakusin, and he also gives her and Bloch the space to evolve the elements they think will work best and have most impact and entertainment value.


This year’s theme was the Variety Show. 

Rakusin and Bloch sourced a cast of around 50 including dancers and five principal singers and a series of other performers – from Italian impressionists to Chinese circus acrobats.

They commissioned musical director Brian Schinnell to compose a special soundtrack for this year’s show, and he also amassed the live band.

The budget is reasonable but not bottomless, and the logistics of creating a world-class show with a true international flavour in the current economic climate and bringing it in bang on target are still “A major challenge” affirms Rakusin, adding “It’s a massive collaboration which results in some incredible teamwork” …. with results as rewarding as it nerve-wracking at times!


For the last few years Tim Dunn from Gearhouse South Africa has designed the event’s lighting, visuals and set the technical parameters, working closely with Pieter Joubert from sister company and set / scenic specialists, SDS.

Bidvest is the largest corporate show for which Gearhouse has supplied full technical production in recent years.

The company’s ability to deliver all the required technical disciplines enables a highly cost-effective solution, and helps make planning and communications a smooth, efficient process as it all starts slotting together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

The first meetings for the upcoming Bidvest show will start around 9 months in advance.

Once site in the week immediately ahead of the show, the schedule is absolutely gruelling for all departments. 

Resembling a West End blockbuster meets stadium rock show in attitude, scale and achievement, it’s no mean feat to transform a large stark room into cozy, highly visual live entertainment experience that WOWs the crowds in a molten mix of drama, colour and excitement.

Dunn is renowned for always ‘pushing the envelope’ on his shows in terms of aesthetics, imagination and technical ambition. 

He utilises the available equipment to produce the very best end results in a blend of experience, original ideas and having the balls to take some risks!

When Brian Joffe is involved, there’s is absolutely anything less than the best is not on the agenda!

Says Dunn, “The show stretches everyone to the limits to produce in a very short time-frame. I enjoy working at this pace, it keeps your mind totally alive, energises people and the end results are a great tribute to the dedication and commitment of all involved”. 

Gearhouse’s Project Manager this year was Lee Reynolds, who co-ordinated the massive technical operation which included the supply of rigging, lighting, sound video and AV plus set and staging. 

Dunn’s visual concepts year-to-year are radically different. Last year’s classic theatricality was replaced with a minimalist, high tech, video-based set with a dynamically cool urban look and feel.

The stage was clean and stylish. 

Dunn also made the bold move of flipping it around 90 degrees from the 2011 event to run horizontally along the room, widening and shortening the entire space. This entailed meticulous pre-planning to get everything to fit and ensure that all parties and departments were happy!

A 29 metre wide video proscenium arch defined the performance space, and the addition of four large sets of movable steps mirrored one side and clad with LED panels the other, was a bold, practical visual effect adding depth and versatility.

This stripped back environment could be radically transformed with vibrant, highly detailed video content. 

Twenty-four upstage and side stage scenic columns, all angled at 15 degrees, could emulate multiple textures from corrugated metal to velvety stage drapes depending on how they were lit. These were rigged from trussing above and clad with over a kilometre of canvas.

The size of the pillars meant that 12 pantechs were needed to transport set to site! This was built by an SDS crew of five Project Managed by Willie Louw.


Story reprinted courtesy ProSystems Magazine, Photo Zoom Photography

Nov 24, 2012

The Gearhouse Group of Companies