Bucket Boy
When: October 31 to November 15, 2023
Where: Masambe at the Baxter Theatre
Bookings: Webtickets      
Writer: Pierre Malherbe
Director: Adrian Collins
Performers: John Maytham and Pierre Malherbe
Stage design: Adrian Collins
Poster design: Bruno Morphet at Plan B Design

I love, loved Pierre Malherbe’s new play, Bucket Boy. Bucket Boy is laugh-out-loud funny, wistful and nostalgic, with two ordinary men dancing around each other in David’s DVD Paradise. Yes, Bucket Boy is funny and a lot of fun but there is a lot more, beneath the deceptively sweet premise of this two hander of two men in a DVD store, close to its sell-by-date. Cantilevered on its frame of entertainment, the narrative is knotted with through lines of wacky suspense, psychological thrills, twists and absurdity; edged by stark realism of fear and anxiety.

John Maytham plays Baardman – the owner of David’s DVD Paradise.  Baardman is very anxious; jittery, on edge as he tries to keep his business together. The play is set sometime before the pandemic (2018, 2019, says Malherbe) when online streaming of films was throttling the remaining DVD stores. In contrast to the fatigued and frazzled Baardman, there is the insouciant Duncan (played by Malherbe). He is a struggling musician and customer, living in Obz, who takes on shifts at the store. Duncan is chilled, playing his guitar, attending band practice and band gigs. Speaking in a surfer dude argot, he is lank nooit kif, whatever, and takes every day as it comes, grateful for his shifts and overtime that he gets.  Duncan apparently has little ambition or aspirations and is content to meander along the pathway of his ordinary life- and escape maybe through movies- which brought him into the store.

Baardman on the other hand has been disintermediated by technology. There is a leitmotif of bad timing and bad luck in this story– buying the store from a David who decamped to Australia – buying the business when it seemed like a good idea. In his personal life, he has also come up against bad timing and being tagged as something he isn’t.  I won’t plot the spoil.

Baardman’s wit, intelligence and urbanity is deliciously juxtaposed against the dof Duncan. Both actors are superb as they dance around each other – physically and emotionally. Director Adrian Collins tempers this dance with exquisite placing and timing in the tiny space of the store, framed by the narrow custom built shelves for DVDs.  

Maythem with his droll, ripostes and withering expressions does his best to remain civil and polite to dof Duncan in his speech but his face and body language conveys his utter frustration and outbursts with intermittent expletives. There is a lovely meta-text which riffs off Maythem’s day job as a radio host and journalist on Cape Talk.   With his astonishing intellect, we hear Maytham on the radio, being unfailingly polite and respectful but his voice often conveys volumes. In Bucket Boy, Maytham brilliantly conjures up the despair, fear and frustration of Baardman, as he delivers each response to Duncan who means well. Maytham’s facial gestures, baggy posture and use of voice is a tour de force. A lot is conveyed through the silence and stares of derision.

Malherbe’s script layers this story in so many directions and teases out a beautiful interplay between these two individuals who become bound together in the bubble of the DVD store (stunning design by director Adrian Collins- with DVDs and posters- evoking the zeitgeist of the DVD store era with its slot for late returns). Baardman and Duncan form an unlikely alliance and tenderness in a series of madcap narrative twists which involve darkness and menace.  It becomes very dark and dangerous. In addition, Baardman duels with his army days and people from that life, which he remains tethered to. I think that there is another play in this sub plot.

Who or what is Bucket Boy? Suffice to say that we all would love a Super Hero in our lives and it may involve hydrangeas and fake grass. Intrigued? Go and see Bucket Boy.  I might just see you there, because I want to see it again.

✳ John Maytham and Pierre Malherbe in Bucket Boy, written by Malherbe, directed by Adrian Collins. Images supplied.