There is something amazing about seeing Andrew Buckland on stage. A Buckland performance is like a wonderful gift you slowly unwrap with great excitement, and in that gift you find a genius, legend, physical theatre master... All those descriptions fit him perfectly and he earns these titles again 100 times over with his performance as the "small smoker" Ivan in Tobacco, And The Harmful Effects Thereof.
With a play as multi-layered and -dimensional as the physical theatre magician Buckland himself, William Harding has taken Chekhov's 1886 monologue and cleverly repackaged it into a still relevant one-man play that continues to speak to audiences more than a 100 years later.
This play is all about "magic"...
magic by family numbers,
magic of memories,
magic of the escapism of the mind,
but most enchantingly, magic of the long overdue collaboration of two Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners, Andrew Buckland (1986) and Sylvaine Strike (2006).
Apart from her undeniable creative vision as director, Strike brings a beautiful element to Harding's one-man play by adding the mental flash images of Ivan's wife in the form of appearances by Toni Morkel that ranges from comical to endearing.
Ivan who is bullied by his "out of humour" wife to deliver a talk on the negative effects of Tobacco, reveals that she is both his inspirational angel and the source of his emotional demise, as he unravels in front of the audience. His unravelling is perhaps an unforeseen gift, as he gets the opportunity to be truly heard without her judgment as just Ivan and not her scarecrow. In wrestling with that which makes him so sad and happy at the same time, this self-described "man of intellectual curiosity" is so awkward that he captures your heart with every quirky stumble.
In essence, this is a play about a curious kid, misunderstood husband, and (mostly) happiest of fathers, that bravely drops all pretence to find himself again.
... and now, inspired by Ivan's bravery, I'm going to find myself a magic feather, build a fort and relive my childhood with inspirational vigour, because childlike passion for life should never be lost.
Oh and fact, Tobacco is a plant!
Catch this beautiful theatre masterpiece filled with giddy life-inspiration showing at the Baxter Theatre until 13 June with tickets, or rather artistic investment in your soul, via Computicket.