MaltaToday, 16 Jan 2008 | From genesis to creativity
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NEWS | Wednesday, 16 January 2008

From genesis to creativity

Adrian Buckle is the creator of Unifaun Theatre Company and producer of many plays which have caused a stir in this closely-knit society of ours. In need of liberal, controversial and ever more demanding plays, Adrian left the Malta Amateur Dramatic Club to open his own production company. In 2000, he joined the Education Division’s Drama Unit, which he later says is in dire need of help.
Adrian introduces himself over a cup of coffee. “I am Unifaun Theatre and tend to stay behind the scenes. I do not promote my personal self. I used to be an Italian teacher but I am now a production company, school drama teacher, husband and father. I love my occupation and would not do anything else.”
Frustrated with how theatre used to be, Adrian created Unifaun in 2005. He decided to name his company after a word mentioned in the song ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’, from the Genesis album Selling England By The Pound (1973).
He explains, “I am a huge Genesis fan and I tried to get an exact definition and discovered it is a play on words. A faun’s behaviour is anything but uniform and is often associated with Dionysus, the Greek God of theatre. After discovering this it seemed ideal for me to call my company Unifaun Theatre.”
His wife has been incredibly supportive to his opening the company and his children may be taking a step in that direction through drama courses. However, Adrian’s parents have not been less approving of his choice of productions. To their credit, they never interfered; but what is it that makes his plays enter the crossfire?
“I do not produce a play because it is controversial, I just like intelligent plays. Theatre has to make people think and if people walk out of my productions asking their spouses if they booked a table at the restaurant, then I have failed.”
One of his more controversial plays was Howard Brenton’s Paul, which shook this little island for a few weeks due to its controversial handling of religious themes. According to a Biblical scholar who came to Malta to discuss the play, Paul was more dangerous than the Da Vinci Code because most of the facts in Paul were correct.
“It was the interpretation of those facts which was the problem and was considered unacceptable by the church since it was not part of the teachings,” Adrian says. “I was surprised by this scholar who was a practical and intelligent priest and was not one who advocates ‘accept and don’t question’ philosophies.”
Most people seemed to have the unfounded fear that people would lose their faith in Catholicism as a result of Paul. Adrian argues the total opposite: that the play was written to challenge grey areas in order to make people believe more. One might say that faith would even be strengthened. “If faith was lost because of Paul then likely as not those people would have lost their faith anyway.”
According to the producer, the censorship board in Malta is to blame for a lot of areas which still remain unchallenged, not allowing people to think. His latest production, has also managed to raise the board’s hackles, and, echoing former national theatre Director Tony Cassar Darien in an interview with MaltaToday last Sunday, Adrian wonders whether there is any point in even having such a censorship board in the 21st century.
Admitting that Mercury Fur by Philip Ridley is indeed a very controversial and violent play, Adrian feels that the Maltese are too protected from what really is happening in the world.
“The main character of Mercury Fur is a 10-year-old boy and because he is underage, we have had a few problems from the censors who have rated the play 18. I am excited because these young actors will be tomorrow’s big names and most are making their debut with this play.
“Its viciousness will make you laugh in the context portrayed by Philip Ridley; but would probably make you throw up in any other situation. The play is meant to cause uncomfortable laughter at things not usually considered laughable…”
Surprisingly, this play is usually performed in front of schoolchildren in other countries. There will be swearwords, but then again, don’t children constantly hear swearwords on the streets, schools and even at home? Violence is always on television. What will a play teach a child which he or she does not already know?
“The job of the censorship board is to react, and it can be evil at times,” Adrian admits. “but I honestly cannot understand why we should have censorship. How can we condemn violence if we do not talk about it or show it for what it is? Masking violence will only weaken the argument.”
About Maltese actors on stage and on television, Adrian simply states that he would not touch Maltese television with a barge pole and does not rate it highly at all. It would seem that it is a completely different area, and the level of acting in the theatre is much higher than on television.
Another aspect to frustrate Adrian Buckle concerns the Education authorities. Problems are being encountered, he claims, because the Education Authorities are refusing to replenish the resources of the Drama Unit.
He explains: “I am a member of the drama unit which works with a number of local schools to give children opportunities to discover themselves. We have also introduced TIE programmes: Theatre In Education, inspired by the National Theatre in London.
“We put on performances to teach children the benefits of eating healthily or even about racism. They have to participate and discuss what is being portrayed in the programmes. They are incredibly effective.”
After just one week at the National Theatre of London, Adrian managed to create four TIE programmes for local schools. One of these was based on bullying in schools and has been running for almost four years. They keep trying to put it off but have received too many requests for it to stop.
The unit now needs more people, but are being denied their request which is destroying the hopes of existing members. The TIEs are the greatest services being offered by the Drama Unit because the Government cannot get it from anywhere else and is lucky enough to be provided with these services for free.
Adrian is also a drama teacher at a secondary school for boys who can barely read and write, but who have no problems when it comes to performing. These students are the ones who need the drama the most. They have even performed plays by Shakespeare, and plays based on the works of Wilfred Owen.
“I am working on scripts about racism in English to help these boys learn English through the texts, and they are enthusiastic about it. I am incredibly supported by the school itself, but there is a possibility that I will not be able to continue to work with these boys if rules are not changed by the education authorities.
"Drama is not just about producing theatrical plays, still less not about chucking self-conscious or shy children on the stage. It is also about discoveries about the self. But when decisions are taken regarding drama, no consultation is made with the people who are involved; only with those who have nothing to do with it at all, and this can eventually result in children being mishandled by inappropriate concepts of drama.
“It is sad that children are not being given the opportunity to experience drama which can be so useful in later life,” he adds.
On a brighter note Adrian thinks he may have found his paradise in the National Theatre in London which is, according to him, the best theatre company in the world. He has to see at least one play at the National Theatre whenever in London and always needs to make a stop at the library.
“The library there is incredible and it takes me one hour just to get my bearings. My wife gives me pocket money whenever I’m there and does not allow me to take my VISA when I’m there for risk of becoming bankrupt in one afternoon…”

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