384 days later

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?

Associate Professor.

So what do you profess Professor?

Ignorance.

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?

Ours.

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.

And now?

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.

Like what?

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?

What?

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.

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One Response to “384 days later”

  1. Vanessa Quan Says:

    Hi Andrew, just saw you at the Market doing ‘The Ugly Noo Noo’, with my nieces. It was great! What was even more enjoyable was that they enjoyed it as much.

    It got me thinking of another 2 favorites of mine, ‘Bloodstream’ and the one about the cheeses, I forget the name right now. What are the chances that SA will be seeing them again soon?

    Thanks,
    Vanessa


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