By Dominique Little and Deva Lee
Andrew Buckland has taken theatre and used it in the way that he thinks it ought to be used – to motivate change. He is known for using theatre to challenge his audiences’ sense of security to promote social responsibility.
Although there is much professional opportunity throughout the rest of the world, Buckland resides in Grahamstown, as anywhere else is just “not the same”. He loves South Africa’s “vibrancy” and views the danger involved as a “potential for life”. However, he expresses that there is a monumental amount of destructive things going on in South Africa that people are just letting happen. “Unless we actively engage in breaking down the system of structures as they are, it’s just gonna carry on,” he says. Buckland believes that what is on people’s minds should be on their mouths and it is his aim to get it there through theatre. We cannot expect transformation in the country if nobody is actively working to better the situation.
Buckland believes in using the actor’s entire body, mind and emotions in theatre to provoke the audience into action. He has great faith in the theatre that is being produced by students and has a great respect for them. It is his faith in the youth and South Africa that has led him to his extensive involvement in the community. He spends much of his time working on projects set up by his wife, Janet Buckland, during the parts of the year that he is not lecturing. Buckland allows theatre to be used to encourage the community to embrace their contemporary urban culture. In an effort to reaffirm Xhosa culture in local people,
Buckland co-wrote a series of history plays about pre-apartheid Xhosa stories. Instilling cultural awareness is of great importance to Buckland as “the centre of themselves as a people had been totally stamped by the apartheid government,” he says. Rather than attempting to be a star in the city, he opts to work with communities and finds it extremely rewarding.
Buckland’s work has, however, spread far and wide. Nevertheless, rather than alluding to the brilliance of his performances, he concentrates solely on the desired effect he hopes that these performances will have as he tries “to reflect life with a different mirror”.
Gender is a topic placed at the centre of many contemporary theatrical performances. Buckland believes that the reason for this is that because race is no longer the dominant issue in South African theatre, gender relations become the next most prevalent thing. Buckland believes it is because it has been “ingrained for centuries”, and comments on how men and women generally see themselves quite differently. He says that is the reason that gender is more than often used as the focal point in a production. It is an attempt to deal with what is “for young people…the thing that’s confronting them” and sees rape as a “clear expression of that”. In Buckland’s opinion “the rape statistics here are, I think, an exact mirror…they’re like the wounds of apartheid”. He believes that it is the role of theatre to start a chain of thought throughout the audience, which will help to heal the violence that has evolved as a result of “the spiritual and psychological damage that was done during that time to people’s view of themselves and what they can be in the world.”
Buckland will be presenting three productions at festival this year, all of which promise to be wildly entertaining, as well as characteristically thought provoking. The premise that “what defines us as human beings is that we are capable of the most extraordinary beauty, but also of the most appalling cruelty” will be explored in Voetsek. Love Amongst the Bones gives life to the saying “One man’s meat is
another man’s poison”, and Crapshute collaborates with a jazz band and captures a cabaret feel.