May 27, 2015
If we had wanted, as president, a second class, b grade, amateur comic, applying his mind to racist material, badly imitating the accents of others, Mr President, we would have elected someone from youtube. Leave clowning to us clowns and just do your job. Oh and by the way, here’s a new mispronunciation of Ncuntla for you.
October 21, 2013
baxter til nov 30th. a new work. a baby. well, a toddler. Funny looking back at posts from 2009. Buffalo even then, but laugh the buffalo was something very different then. Thank goodness. Also went through the infecting the city machine in 2010. not an experience I want to mull over too much. A maturing experience. Bent the buffalo’s horns a bit. But not as much as acting like a Head of Department of Drama at Rhodes for three years. Even more maturing. But clarifying. Both horns buckled and bruised. But survived. Now I am given a great gift of time to work at what makes sense. Hallo Julia.
August 28, 2012
TEDx Rhodes 12th August 2012
Theatre or Extinction. Choose!
It seems abundantly clear from all the available evidence that at the core, the essential nature of existence, even, and especially in fact, at the subatomic level, consists of a dynamic interaction between conflicting, and potentially opposing, forces. Electromagnetic and gravitational energy attracting and repelling particles which are colliding in the beautiful chaotic dance through which energy materialises and is manifested as matter in the physical realm. (speaker finds imaginary rope and begins to pull against a growing pull from other end through the following text) And similarly, at a societal level we are constantly in the grip of the forces that pull things together and those that pull things apart. So it is not surprising that in theatre, which could be said to represent life, we encounter the same conflict of opposing forces. In the West this is most commonly experienced through the spoken dialogue of characters with contrary points of view. Macbeth vs Macduff, or these two;
My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
That I have longed long to redeliver.
I pray you now receive them.
No, not I, I never gave you aught
My honoured lord you know right well you did.
No. Get thee to a nunnery, go and quickly too!
Hamlet and Ophelia’s conflict represented. However, (rope again) I am a big fan of physical theatre and I am inspired by African performance traditions because they illustrate so graphically how it is possible for this core conflictive dynamic of theatre to be, not represented, but embodied. To be manifest in the body of the performer.
Another illustration; observe the difference between this; “Once there was a man who ran into a wall.” And this; (runs into wall).
This, I hope, so that I don’t need to do it again, speaks for itself. But the salient element of the first illustration is that despite what you might think, there was no rope. And, even more importantly, there was nobody pulling at the other end of the no-rope that we didn’t see. But each one of us, I am willing to bet, saw someone there. And more importantly, each one of us saw a different nobody there. Each one, stimulated by an embodied conflict, actively imagined and visualised what…, in fact who… was patently not there. Exercising our communal imagination, in play. Childsplay? I would argue not.
In fact I would argue that in a world of 30 second tv ads, 20 minute sitcoms, and 16 minute recorded TED talks on the internet, and increasingly mind-blowing digital animation, it is nothing less than a matter of life and death, of the survival of the species that we re-learn to exercise our imaginations and play. To utilise our ability to ask the question ‘what if ?’ Because this facility to use the imagination, to project ourselves through time and space in order to consider varying circumstances and varying points of view, I would argue, is the prime defining technique, mechanism, talent, ability, muscle which distinguishes homo sapiens. It is central to the functioning of the key evolutionary advantage of adaptability and empathy which has allowed us to survive this long.
To illustrate, imagine, if you will, two early humans discussing the plans for the buffalo hunt;
Me too. So what yer think? Buffalo?
Buffalo?! My wife loves a bit of buffalo
Good, you can score some points then, because there’s a whole herd of them coming into the valley.
Good. So what’s the plan?
Well I have been consulting the bones…
You don’t know how to read bones.
No, I’m doing a course.
On being a shaman. Reader of bones. Traveller to the underworld. Spirit man.
So the bones tell me that we will have success in the hunt if we dress up in the clothes of our forefathers and, approaching the herd from the South, we run in slow motion toward the buffalo screaming horribly, they will marvel at our amazingness as humans and be possessed by the beauty of the movement and so will stand there until we are within range to loosen the wrath of our spears into their dumbfounded heads.
So what are you going to wear? What did your father wear?
I don’t know he was eaten before I was born.
No my brother and my uncle. Long story. It was a bad season. Anyway…
What do you think of the plan?
I think it is one of at least two we should consider. The second being this one. My mother always told me that the best way to catch buffalo is to think like buffalo.
How do we do that?
She also said the best way to think like buffalo is to look and move like buffalo.
So put on this buffalo skin and this buffalo mask with the buffalo horns and be buffalo.
I feel like a bit of a doos.
No stick with it, go on. Act buffalo.
Act like buffalo…
No, ACT buffalo. Perform the essence of buffalo.
Yes. Sort of thing. Go on. ‘Be’ buffalo.
Right. Moo. (chews)
Good. And what is buffalo thinking about?
Good. Nice, staying in character, I like that. Okay so. There you are. Buffalo. In the herd. Now I’ll be you, dressed like your dad and approaching from the South, which also happens to be upwind, running, in slow motion, screaming horribly, toward you. Eeeeuuuaaargh!!
So what does buffalo think? Are you marvelling at the amazingness of humans and possessed by the beauty of the movements?
So tell me, what does buffalo think now?
(chewing) ‘What’s up with the stupid humans? What a crap plan.’
Precisely, but, if you and me, have put on buffalo skins and headdresses and covered ourselves with buffalo dung and urine.
Yes, for the scent, and have by now already infiltrated the herd and are amongst them, being buffalo like this and grazing like the rest of them, then what is buffalo thinking?
Moo… Still just grass.
Exactly. And that is when we throw off the skins and we…
… loosen the wrath of our spears into their dumbfounded heads.
Exactly. Then buffalo is thinking ‘Where did the humans come from?’
Or they are thinking; ‘Why is my brother buffalo sticking a spear into me?’
Or they are not thinking at all because they are already lunch.
That was fun. Buggar the hunt. Let’s play buffalo again.
Okay, tomorrow. But today we must hunt. You don’t want to see my wife when she’s hungry.
Arguably, a version of one of the myriad possible origins of theatre; play as a key tool for survival, as a significant evolutionary advantage.
But this advantage requires practice otherwise like any muscle, it will atrophy. The more we practice using our imagination the better we get at it. The more imaginative technique we develop, the better the choices we are likely to make as individuals and as a species. And the better chance we have of surviving. Of avoiding extinction.
So theatre and live performance can be legitimately viewed as a core human activity, rather than a diversion or distraction. Which is often how it is perceived. Especially in the West. And the bulk of popular culture and media output, in it’s design, does not call on the imagination; digital media games and movies fill in all the imaginative gaps for us. Consequently we have forgotten, especially in the so-called global culture, how to witness, participate in, be present in, view, be with, watch… live performance.
So to counter this I wish to conclude this talk by presenting;
THE FOOL’S GUIDE TO WATCHING THEATRE
The actor is positioned on his upper back and shoulders with his arms and legs raised above him.
What’s going on?
What’s he doing? What is that?
Oh it’s …er… physical theatre, bru.
Physical theatre. It’s a… like a dance vibe… abstract.
Oh… like intellectual?
Well no, in fact, exactly the opposite. You’re not really expected or supposed to understand it.
Ja. You just watch it and don’t try to understand… just… you feel it.
Okay… I am not feeling that oke, hey.
No man, stay with it, just watch and listen. Don’t look to try and see anything. Just see what you see.
What are you seeing? Cos I’m just looking at an oke with his arse in the air. What is that supposed to mean?
That’s what I am saying; it isn’t necessarily ‘supposed to mean’ anything.
Then why must he do it and why must I watch it?
No look, try to think more holistically. For instance, so okay there he is with his arse in the air, but you must try not to be distracted by that. Instead of looking at him, at where his arse is, imagine what does it suggest when you look at… the movement.
China he’s not moving, he’s just standing there on his back.
No I think if you look carefully you’ll see that there are subtle shifts and shadow movements. There, you see that…? When I look at that it suggests… it makes me feel like… perhaps… like he could be… under water.
Ja. It makes me think of a dead body floating, suspended upside down in the water. Strangely peaceful.
Kak man. He’s breathing. I can see his lips moving – he’s talking. You can’t do that under water, dude I don’t care how abstract you are. And especially if you are dead.
No dude, I’m just using my imagination… for instance look there now, it’s changing and you know what I’m seeing? It could be a baby.
A dead baby under water? You’re sick.
No! An unborn baby. Floating there in the amniotic fluid. Safe in his mother’s womb.
Isn’t he a bit old to play a baby?
No man I told you; it’s art. You’ve got to use your imagination.
I’m sorry, I’m not seeing a baby there guy.
Fine what are you seeing? It doesn’t have to be what I’m seeing. It’s about working out your own… y’know… Each person is gonna see something totally different.
So it doesn’t matter what he does? Anyone could just get on stage and do anything?
Well as long as it stimulates my imagination and my feelings.
The actor dismounts, stands and begins to mime-walk toward the audience.
Oh no wait, hang on man, now what’s he doing?
What? Oh okay, that’s mime bru.
What do you mean it’s yours?
No MiMe; Marcel Marceau. White face, stuck in a box. Pulling a rope…
Oooh. Right… I remember them… weird little dudes with irritating braces and stupid smiles on their stupid white faces. Whatever happened to those chops?
Well actually that specific school of mime had a relatively short lifespan.
Ja. Interestingly enough in the nineteen sixties I think, in Paris, a man called Jacques Lecoq held a mock funeral to mark the death of Mime as an art form.
Are you serious, dude? That’s his name. Jack the Cock?
No Jacques Lecoq… French dude. Famous oke. He’s dead now, but famous… Ag never mind.
Okay so wait… you rate this guy quite highly?
Ja. His technique is pretty good.
Well now we are talking. Cos even if I don’t know what’s going on or who is supposed to be who and what’s the story, even if I have no idea what its about I can still appreciate the technique. I don’t have to understand if I can SEE the technique.
Except that this is mime technique.
So the basic premise of mime is not that you are supposed to see the wall that isn’t there, what you see is the not-wall, you watch the absence of wall manifest. Its very zen. The same with the technique. If it’s there you won’t be able to see it.
So how do I know it’s there?
Well if there’s no technique, then you will definitely see that.
So wait I must watch this theatre and if I don’t understand what’s going on I must look for something which if it’s there, I won’t be able to see it. And if it isn’t there then, I will be able to see that it isn’t there.
So I’m not going to see anything am I?
Well that’s what I’ve trying to tell you. Don’t try and understand or see anything. Just feel it…
November 29, 2010
Interview with myself.
So I believe you’re coming back to Joburg and all you can bring is some tired old one-man shows…
Ja, well, two old ones and one new one.
And the new one was written by someone else?
Yes, Dario Fo.
So, there’s nothing new from you? Since like… The Well Being or so?
Well, yes, some. Just different focus.
But nothing here. In the big time. In Jozi. So why now?
Well, reaching a certain age and spending a year out of the country and especially a year with Cirque du Soleil was inspiring for so many reasons. On my return I felt as if anything was possible and then, I was selected as a resident artist on the Infecting the City Festival in Feb 2010. With workshops in December 2009. And this proved to be a challenging experience and one from which many lessons were learnt. The first being the necessity of physical, practical action. Otherwise known as work. This notion was not something unfamiliar, but to see the truth of it manifested so explicitly and graphically and personally and emotionally, felt like a lesson. Painful but providing great clarity. And the second the fact of my failure as a collaborator because polite and unwilling to stand in the fire of being fully honest from the beginning. Too ‘polite, reserved, ‘nice’ don’t let’s get upset’ … ‘no let’s wait until it explodes in our faces rather’.
And then getting home and updating my cv the one day, I just thought… ‘hell I can still do that show, I did that one last week, and yes could, with a bit of work, do that one’. Then I had a moment of hubris and said ‘Wow what about a season at some major venue; ‘Five nights. Five shows. One man.’ I could do that. ‘Artist as acrobat. Circus spectacular. Unusual or unique physical performance’. So I asked Lara Foot and she said, ‘Hell yes we can give you a venue for that.’ And so I thought about it and decided that three shows a week was a better idea and somehow just a more satisfying number. Besides the fact that, well, as you get older you just get cleverer and more economical with your energy. So the Baxter Centre produced a season and then this same season is coming to the Market; The Ugly Noo Noo, Between the Teeth and Dario Fo’s Mistero Buffo.
Ja call back the past… but you’re not a full time actor are you? I mean aren’t you one of those … what do you call them… academics? In fact aren’t you a Professor?
So what do you profess Professor?
Cute. So you came back from a year in Las Vegas straight into a full time teaching job?
Yes Head of Drama Department at Rhodes University.
So you’re a teacher now and not an actor?
No I’ve always done a bit of both… well I’ve just been very fortunate my whole life to have had the opportunities …
Ja, ja, whatever… so you’re just repeating some old shows… a kind of a Buckland retrospective? A Best of Buckland season. Like at the Barnyard. ‘Hey wasn’t Andrew Buckland fun in the old days? Remember how we laughed! Let’s go and do it again… bring back the good times. Recall the past. Forget about your troubles for a while and come and think back to where you were when you saw your first parktown prawn?’
Excuse me who’s interview is this?
Well then it’s my turn. The moment of hubris was born from the inspired and invigorated state of being that the year with Cirque had given me; to the extent that I felt like a buffalo; that I could do anything. It reminded me of the lessons I had learned early from Gary Gordon; one; that theatre is about the body. Two; that you can change the way the body is in the world just by training. If you want to learn to do a back somersault from standing – provided you have the body type -you can. If you practice enough and in the right way. Or you want to have a more supple and liberated body? You can have it. You want a better, more open, more connected voice and clear unforced and expressive articulation? … whatever… And Cirque was phase one of that realisation… the eye opener.
Oh. Okay, I get it. You come back from Vegas and you’re a bit older and your son Daniel is making a bit of a name and he’s got two shows on at the Market, plus he’s been invited to go and perform for Cirque again… in the show that’s coming to SA… and you don’t want to come in and look like a doos while he takes the limelight?
Buggar that. I’m in training. Cirque du Soleil was like a performance boot camp. Five nights a week, twice a night, plus training, rehearsals and publicity duties.
I’m trying to get my head around this HoD thing. Trying to get the management and basic administrative things right so that I can start things like curriculum planning and transformation of higher education institutions…
Ja that teacher stuff… but what about acting… why are you still doing the Ugly Noo Noo?
Because it’s funny. It has its limitations but still, after 22 years, hopefully it helps us remember things about the past that still have meaning today.
Oh things that just don’t seem to go away like fear and violence and laughter and joy through pain.
And Between the Teeth?
Also actually about fear and violence and lies and verbal language.
Sounds like a bag of laughs…
There’s a couple of laughs in there.
And Mistero Buffo?
I was using the text of Mistero Buffo in my training when I got back from Cirque and it was so funny and such fun to rehearse that I thought ‘Hell I swear other people are going to find this funny as well. I know because if it makes me laugh, and then it makes Janet laugh as well… it’s got an audience’. So come and watch it.
Maybe. So now you are Head of the Drama Department at Rhodes. What are you going to do with that?
Hmmm. First thing is we want to do is change the name. We are not a Drama Department anymore. And I have had enough of other academics on this campus coming to me when we meet at invigilation of exams and saying things like… “Oh, drama students… I hope they don’t give us any drama…” Or “oh aren’t you a mime? Your lectures must be helluva quiet…! ha ha”.
So what are you now?
So we are soon going to be a Department of Performance Studies.
And besides the name change?
Not much, just more and better of the same. We are about to make ourselves the most exciting Performance Studies department in the country. We have radically re-shaped the masters by coursework program so that it is an even more exciting opportunity for post grad study and research in Theatre and Performance for people who have just finished four years or have been working in the industry for a while and want to do some serious study and research and get a Masters degree.
And what if I’m a school leaver and I want to be a famous actor?
Then you should definitely come and study a degree majoring in Drama and another subject at Rhodes.
I don’t want another subject. I want to be an actor.
Yes but you’ll be a better actor if you do the other major.
Kak. You’ll just be wasting my time. It sounds like you do a general sort of Buggar All credit for a Buggar All degree.
Well we could be changing that as well. We are studying the feasibility of creating a four year Bachelor of Performance Studies, so you’ll only have to major in Theatre.
And then I can go and be a famous actor?
Sure except that you will have had no training in Film or Television.
So why should I come and study with you?
The fact is that a university education in a humanities bachelor of arts degree programme majoring in theatre is not able to train people for the industry. And also because… well there is no industry… Really…. Not in the Eastern Cape. And in my opinion Theatre should be a compulsory activity for every human being. It’s the greatest training in being a human being that you can get. Whatever profession you want to profess. Going to it, seeing it, doing it, playing it. It’s an essential activity of life.
Zzzz z z…
So anyway what we do is we offer courses in the Humanities Faculty to anyone who wants to play seriously with theatre. We accept anyone who is prepared to commit to the demands of the course. Whether you want to just spend a year experimenting with one course in Theatre Studies and then you are going to go on and conquer the world of big business or law or bus driving or you have your eyes focused on the stages of Broadway or a PhD in Performance Studies or you are the next Sholto Copley… You spend some time here and you will engage with some really powerful teachers who are passionate about making good, thrilling, innovative, inventive, curious, satisfying, frustrating, challenging, devastating, never soothing, always awake, funny, tragic, live performance that is solidly situated in the contexts in which we live . And when you leave I’ll be damned if you won’t be three times the human being you would have been if you hadn’t have done the courses. Whether you are driving a bus or creating earth-shakingly astounding live performance.
Is this what you do when you lecture?
Get all poncy and theatrical?
Yes. Its interesting isn’t it?
Not really … are we going to see some young Andrew Bucklands come out of there in a few years?
It is my sincere wish that we do not. I do not need the competition from younger bodies.
So which show should I see?
All three. What are you talking about? You can get a big reduction if you come to all three. Come on, loosen up… come to the theatre. You will definitely have a laugh.
November 10, 2009
I am a born-again atheist. A life now filled with energy, and focus and, hell, ‘meaning’ and utterly devoid of fear, now that it’s clear that the wondrous mystery of the universe is not the product of a god. I loathe the doctrine of the apocalypse and rapture and second comings. I find it vile and fear-mongerous and driven by power-mongering of the worst kind. Born of the foulest inclination of humans to control others through fear. And the Mayans? They just ran out of ink. Or interest. That’s why they stopped on the something of December 2012. But I am also an eco-pessimist and skeptic. The physical evidence of the state of the planet points bla bla coming transition, bla tipping point bla bla, and so, yes, we have already bla bla cataclysmic climate and bla bla impact, bla bla balance of eco-systems bla bla survival of life, bla fragile and delicate bla bla lives of millions of humans. This is coming. Some of us may survive. The clever ones and some of the very stupid probably will. And life will continue on the planet under very different conditions. Or perhaps we will be gone completely. And that’s sad but… actually, no. It’s not even sad. It’s just the way things are. It’s natural. The way things are bound to go, nature being what it is. We needed to evolve too much in too short a time if we were to have a hope of saving ourselves. So every day is the last day. Every day is a lifetime. I feel totally re-energised by the real sense of the finiteness of life. Today is today and tomorrow the comets might start falling or the freak storm hit town, or whatever, so, as Neitsche said; ‘live as though the day were here’. Halleluia I am saved from fear. It occurs to me that we might well be the instruments of the universe’s attempt to understand itself. And such is the wondrous wonder of consciousness that this attempt is as dangerous as it is wondrous. Like life. Also. I have just had two proposals rejected by two national arts festivals. Two proposals I have made for the mounting of two new South African theatre works have been rejected by the major festivals facilitating new work in the country. So it seems that I will be making the work on my own. Somehow that seems even more satisfyingly difficult, because, oh boy, I am more powerful and happier and more rapturously in the moment than ever before in my life. I am a buffalo. I feel like I am closer to the edge, on the verge of exploding all the time. The joy of life thrumming through my veins is deafening. Anything is possible. The neutral state of moving-but-still applies. It is a state of readiness in ease. I think I might be just about to peak. So that’s that. I will probably have more to say after the workshops for the Infecting the City project to which I go next week. Can’t wait. Have to. Sun comes up, goes down, comes up again. And days happen in between. And then there are the nights. Inevitable. I will be looking at this screen and the workshops will have started…
October 1, 2009
Finished teaching for the year, but back at work. And I am the boss. Have to meet myself in the rehearsal room every morning and do class. Two hours stretch, strength and flexibility. Some dance and mime and vocal technique. Then rehearse the Dario Fo text I am using to keep up performance training. Then Bisho and Bach to keep up illusion chops, then some improv work on the Laugh the Buffalo story I am preparing for next year.
Last weekend we went to East London for the eightieth birthday of my father-in-law. To this party also came Matthew and his daughter Isabel and Daniel from cape town and joburg respectively. And many other family members and close friends who gathered to celebrate the life of this amazing man. Daniel sang, Andrew did a sketch, Maggie and her brother Jannie did a number, Wally did a slightly confused version of his old rugby/pub song about his hat being on one side. Matthew read the messages from afar and Janet sang a verse or three and an ass smacking chorus of Hello Wally. Luke called in on the night and spoke to Grumps at the table who was funny and sad and amazing as usual. ‘Who’s party is this?’
‘ It’s yours Grumps.’
‘ My birthday?’
‘Yes. You are eighty tomorrow.’
‘Wow. My mother died when she was eighty nine. Few more years and I could beat her record hey?’
And then on the day we leave we go to this garden nursery place which serves great breakfast and very reasonably and is probably the coolest place in East London to go. Lavender Blue. And I am walking him to a seat in the shade and he looks at me and says. ‘I’m eighty years old.’ I said. ‘You’re right. That’s how old you are and that’s why we are all here to be with you.’ And he turns to his wife and says with a mixture of pride, amazement and some authority; ‘Maggie, I’m eighty years old.’
And on the jungle jim? Isabel is climbing and has been performing to Daniel’s vocal sound-effect-text of amazement at the details of the world and she is about to do another cycle of ‘hey wow look at me!’ to get the required cheers of approval and adoration from the crowd of her father, her grandmother and her uncle. So I climb on the mechanism and claim half.
‘Get off! This is mine.’
‘No, this is ours we are going to share it. If you want, that will be your half and this will be mine.’
‘No, get off. It’s mine’
‘No actually it’s not. It belongs to this place and anyone…’
‘I want it.’
‘It’s mine, get off!!… (then, get this)… I’m going to hurt you!!’
‘Oh really? Okay.’
‘Get Off!!!!’ (screams)
‘Do you think that you can scream louder and scarier than I can?’
‘No this is also mine. We can share it.’
‘No. Say ‘please’, stinky.
I step away. ‘Thank you stinky.’
Showed the Dario Fo excerpt to Juanita and some interested students. Not bad. Much panicked rushing as usual. Some sense of it though and couple of good laughs… rhythmically solid set-ups and deliveries. Such good text. And what a pleasure to do some acting. Now it needs Janet’s attention. crafting and extension beyond comfort.
Then we went to this wedding of some very good friends of ours. Kiran Pienaar and Bradley Clayton. Good party, spent most the night talking to Guy and Jeanne about places to visit in the Eastern Cape. I love weddings. And then normally have the ritual of the garter tossed for the young available bachelors and the bouquet thrown over the shoulder for the available unmarried women. I have always found the garter ceremony ritual really embarrassing. Of course you want to be seen to be going for the garter. But not to be too desperate you know? It all seemed a little demeaning. Actually it didn’t really impact on me personally for reasons which follow. Anyway the bouquet the same thing. But then this night at this wedding….. I don’t know who’s idea it was, but what a beauty. They played this other but related game instead,,,, maybe it happens at every other wedding than the ones I have been to… but every couple in the place is invited onto the dance floor. Then the dj asks all those who have only been together for a year or less to leave the floor. And then after another few seconds, those who have only been together for two years or less. And then five and then ten and so on. And then it was down to those couples who have only been together for thirty years, leave the floor. Thirty two. Thirty three. Thirty four. And there are only two couples on the floor. Us and another. Thirty five? And both couples turn to go.
Ag, we were in August, you win.
And that was us getting the bouquet at the wedding for being together for thirty four years and two months. Love is a verb mama, not a feeling.