Circus Adventures with Andrew Buckland

andrew buckland

By Kutloano Kunutu

Pic: Joni Els

If he wasn’t already, Andrew Buckland has become one of Rhodes University’s coolest lecturers. Why? Well, he and his son, Daniel, joined the circus. Not just any circus, the Rolls Royce of circuses: the Cirque du Soleil.

Andrew Buckland has been involved in South African theatre since the 1980s and has been an associate professor at Rhodes since 1992. His brands of physical theatre, mime-work and satire have won him local and international acclaim with works such as The Ugly Noo Noo, The Well Being and Fuse. Father and son worked together on Fuse which was created to be performed at the National Arts Festival. They are now on the adventure of a lifetime.Buckland’s association with the Cirque began in the late 1980s, when he sent them a tape of his work. “They acknowledged it, and said if I was ever needed (amongst the literally millions of others sending them stuff) they would call,” says Buckland. In 2004, a scout from the Cirque came to the National Arts Festival, where Buckland had two shows running, The Well Being and Feedback.

In 2006, the Bucklands were both invited to audition in the Cirque’s official auditions, Andrew in Cape Town and Daniel in Johannesburg. Six people were accepted at these auditions, four of whom are former Rhodes students trained under Professor Gary Gordon. It was only in December 2007 that Daniel was called by the Cirque and cast as one of the “Nowhere Men”. Buckland was asked to send another tape. He was then called, two weeks after Daniel had been accepted, and cast as Sgt Pepper in the Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE. “It was only in the third or so phone call that they asked, ‘Are you related to this other Buckland, Daniel?’” says Andrew Buckland.

The Cirque show LOVE, which is performed at The Mirage in Las Vegas, makes use of original studio recordings of unreleased and unknown versions of well known Beatle songs. Buckland says that LOVE “is a creative response using theatre and circus media to the music and social phenomenon of the Beatles”. He says that, “each number is interpreted in theatrical and circus terms, each creating a kind of world which will evoke the spirit of the times and of the Beatles themselves. Often it is like a dreamscape of the song.” The major differences between the kind of work Buckland is known for and LOVE, is the scale; 2000 seats instead of about 200 and a cast of 80 instead of between one and four.

When asked about the three totally random things he misses about home Buckland said, “there is nothing random about what I miss; my wife, my bed and sitting watching the birds bath.”

Buckland’s contract with the Cirque du Soleil ends on the 2 June 2009, so if you happen to find yourself in Vegas before 2 June this year and the tickets are not sold out, stop by the Mirage and catch LOVE.

To read more tales about the circus, check out Andrew Buckland’s blog at http://www.abuckland.com.

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